F. C . PARE
Gbe 3n$le IRoofc Series
THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO
DALLAS SAN FRANCISCO
THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
l ; alcon the Hunter f/.
RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
CONTAINING TALES FROM THE SONG-CYCLES
OF KIEV AND NOVGOROD AND OTHER
AUTHOR OF " THE INDIAN STORY BOOK "
WITH SIXTEEN COLOURED PLATES AND
LINE ILLUSTRATIONS FROM DRAWINGS BY
FRANK C. PAPE
. J I , , ^ '"'','
I > . , * I ' 1 . , ' . '
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON
, LENOX '
I HAVE gone right into the heart of " Holy Russia," to Kiev
and Novgorod and the borders of the Caspian, in an endeavour
to show by means of some of the early legends the ideals and
point of view of the Russian nation while it was in the process
of being made. The stories of the song-cycles of Kiev and
Novgorod tell of a barbaric, though not a barbarian, world,
full of high colour and spirited action, of the knock-down
blow followed quickly by the hand of friendship freely extended
to pick up the fallen foeman if indeed he has had the
hardihood to survive.
The land of Vladimir and Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack
is a Christian land, with the Christianity of the Greek Church,
and it is before all else an Easter land, where the Christian
Festival of the Resurrection means infinitely more than it can
ever do in countries wiiich arc not ice-bound for several winter
months. The country is, moreover, an outpost of Christianity
towards the East uninfluenced by Renaissance or Reformation
and must therefore have developed interesting characteristics
entirely different from those of Western lands. I think that
such characteristics are clearly shown in these stories, but I
must leave those of my older readers who are interested in this
matter to find them out and to discover the Arthur, Guinevere
and Galahad of Russia ; for my first concern is to tell a tale
which will please healthy-minded boys and girls in their early
This book might have been written by a Russian who
thoroughly understands our language, or by an English author
who has spent the best part of a lifetime in studying Russia
and the Russians, illustrated by a native artist, and decorated
by a Russian designer. When such a volume does appear, it
will have a great interest for me. Meanwhile, I submit that
there is some artistic unity, also, in a volume of Russian stories,
written by an Englishman, illustrated by an English artist, and
decorated by an English designer, the whole production being
for an English child.
One cannot delve far into these folk-lore records without
becoming indebted to Miss I. F. Hapgood's English renderings
from the collections of Kirsha Danilov, P. B. Kiryeevsky,
A. T. Gillferding, Rybnikof, P. A. Bezsonof and others, pub-
lished in New York in 1885 ; to J. Curtin's literal translations
from the Narodniya Russyika Shazki of A. N. Afanasieva ; to
W. R. S. Ralston's books on Russian folk-song and fable ; and
to the writings of the Hon. Maurice Baring and Mr. Stephen
Graham. To all of these I desire to express my indebtedness
for help and guidance, though the responsibility for the telling
and interpretation of the tales is entirely my own. If this little
collection makes th;e* British child 'morii sympathetic towards
i * , . r t l < J JL
Russia and helps it" to /understand" the Russian people to a
small degree its purpose \vill kiV.e fo^en achieved.
ILYA AND CLOUDFALL . n
ILYA MEETS SVYATOGOR AND PARTS WITH HIM . 19
ILYA AND NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER 33
ILYA AND FALCON THE HUNTER . 51
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BURNING WHITE STONE . 73
How QUIET DUNAI HAD BROUGHT THE PRINCESS APRAXIA
TO KIEV . . 83
THE STORY OF NIKITICH AND MARINA . . 103
How THE COURT OF VLADIMIR RECEIVED A VISITOR FROM
INDIA THE GLORIOUS ... 119
THE STORY OF KASYAN AND THE DREAM MAIDEN . 149
How STAVR THE NOBLE WAS SAVED BY A WOMAN'S WILES 161
THE GOLDEN HORDE. . . . 175
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER, OR THE KINGDOMS OF COPPER,
SILVER, AND GOLD . 195
VASILY THE TURBULENT . . 231
NIKITA THE FOOTLESS AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR . 267
PEERLESS BEAUTY THE CAKE-BAKER . . 289
Falcon the Hunter (p. 64)
" Come down," cried the hero's wife
Nightingale the Robber fell from his nest in the old oaks . 42
It was clear that her fascination still worked upon the hearts of
the prisoners ..... 81
Then the Princess ran with her feet all bare out into the open
corridor ....... 87
Marina lay upon a couch . . . and fondled a fiery dragon with
her right hand ...... 108
Diuk stooped and caught Churilo by his yellow curls . . 142
There passed over the boundless plain an aged saint with
flowing beard, and eyes which shone with laughter . 159
She put her good steed to the walls and leapt lightly over them . 167
A mountain cave which no man has ever seen . . .192
Whirlwind the Whistler carries away Golden Tress . .198
"Oh," said the man, "I am able to do everything" . . 222
The black-browed maid stood upon the bank as the red ship
. . . sailed away from Novgorod .... 249
The Water Tsar dances ..... 263
Timothy began to dance, the cabin also began to dance, the
table danced ...... 285
" Bless me, Little Father, for I am going to my wedding " . 292
//z<? fountain which btirst forth beneath
the hoofs of Cloudfall, fierce Bears still come
to quaff the waters and gain heroic strength.
ILYA AND CLOUDFALL
ILYA AND CLOUDFALL
FOR thirty years Ilya sat upon the stove in his
mother's cottage, for he was a helpless cripple
without arms or legs, and really of no use to any one,
either in the house or out of it. But when these
quiet years were past and over, Ilya came to his own,
as you shall see.
One summer day his father and mother took
down the wooden rakes and went out into the sunny
meadow round which the tall pines stood to help to
make the hay ; and Ilya was left alone in the cottage
with his thoughts.
All at once he heard a deep voice at the door
which said, " In the Name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Ghost." * Amen/' responded
Ilya at once, and three wayfarers entered after
bowing at the threshold. They were old and vener-
able, and Ilya knew them at once to be singers of
holy psalms, who never lacked food and drink
among the peasants whose lives they cheered. So,
when they asked him for something to drink, he
spoke gently to them, partly, however, because he
feared the result of their displeasure.
i 4 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
" Venerable masters," he said, ' whatever is
within the house is yours, but, to my sorrow, I
cannot rise to wait upon you." Then the holy men
looked steadily at him, and before their steadfast
gaze Ilya's eyes fell in humility as before the Holy
Cross ; and as he looked downwards they said to
him, " Arise and wash yourself, for you shall be
able to walk and to wait upon us."
Somehow, Ilya seemed to obey them in spite of
himself. He got down from the stove and walked
with the legs of a full-grown man of mighty stature.
Then stretching out his brawny arms he took the
cup, filled it with the drink of the rye, and offered it
to the holy guests on bended knee. They took it
from him, drank one after the other, and gave it to
him again, saying, " Drink in your turn, Ilya." The
young man obeyed without a word, and then awaited
the further pleasure of the visitors.
1 Ilya, son of weakness," they said, ' how is it
with your strength ? '
I thank you with reverence, venerable sirs,"
he replied, bowing low before them, " my strength
is now such as could surely move the earth."
The old men turned from him and regarded each
other with a look of wisdom so pure and clear and
like a shaft of brightest sunlight that Ilya's eyes
sought the earthen floor of the cottage once again.
Then one of the guests, who seemed to be the
leader, said in a quiet voice of authority, " Give us to
drink once more," and Ilya obeyed without question.
' Drink now yourself, Ilya," they said, and he did so.
ILYA AND CLOUDFALL 15
" Ilya, son of weakness," they said, * how is it
now with your strength ? '
" I thank you with reverence, venerable sirs,"
he said, " my strength is great, but only half the
strength I had."
" That is well," said the old men ; "if it were
greater, then moist Mother Earth would be too
frail to bear you."
Then the old men told Ilya to go out into the
summer sunlight, and he walked out of the cottage
for the first time, followed by his deliverers ; and
there, standing in the light, the young man received
his blessing and his charge.
" Ilya, son of strength," they said, ' it is God
Himself who has redeemed you from weakness.
Therefore you are bound to defend the faith of
Christ against all unbelievers, however bold and
daring they may be, remembering always that it is
not written that you should come to your death in
' In the whole white world there is none stronger
than you except Svyatogor, whom you will meet
before long. Avoid conflict with him, and him
alone ; do not spend your strength on the soil or
the meadow or the forest, but set out without delay
for the royal city of Kiev."
Having spoken these words, the old men vanished,
and Ilya did not see either how or where they went.
He only knew that he stood alone in the light of the
sun, and he stretched out his great arms as if he had
just awakened from a long refreshing sleep.
1 6 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Then the young giant went to seek his father and
mother, and found them resting in the shade of the
pine trees by the side of the meadow. The whole
company was asleep, and taking up one of their axes,
Ilya began to hew at the trunks of the pines. It is
a matter for wonder that the sound of the crashing
trunks which was soon heard did not immediately
awake the sleepers, for the young man laid about
him lustily during the space of an hour, and at the
end of that time had felled a small wood about the
extent of a field ; which is really not so very marvel-
lous after all, seeing that he had been storing up
strength for thirty years. When he had finished
this work he drove all the axes lying near the sleepers
into a tree -stump with a quiet laugh. " Ah," he
said to himself, " they must ask me for these axes if
they wish to use them again."
After a while the young man's parents and their
labourers awoke from sleep, for by his tree-felling
Ilya had taken away the shade, and the hot sunlight
was now beating full upon their faces. With blinking
eyes they looked around, and when they saw the
fallen timber and the axes deeply embedded in the
stump of a tree, they began somewhat slowly to be
filled with very great wonder, and said to one another,
" Who has done this ? "
Then Ilya came out of the forest where he had
been hiding and enjoying their awakening. The
men were now trying in vain to draw out the axes,
and he took them easily from the stump, and handed
them to the wondering servants without a word
ILYA AND CLOUDFALL 17
being spoken on either side ; for the labourers were
too much dazed to break the silence by speech.
For a few moments the father and mother gazed
at the tall young man, the eyes of the former dwelling
upon his stature, his strong limbs, and his mighty
shoulders, while the mother gazed steadfastly at the
face of her son, which was radiant with a wonderful
light. Then, clasping his hands and closing his
eyes, the old man gave thanks to God that he should
be the father of so splendid a workman ; but Ilya
showed no sign of continuing in his peasant's task,
for with a low bow of reverence to his parents, he
strode away without a word across the open plain.
His mother watched him go in silence, and then
she bowed her head as before the Holy Cross ; for
the light which she had seen in the young man's
eyes never shone in the eyes of a woodman or of one
content to spend the summer day making hay in the
Now, as Ilya went on his way he saw a peasant
walking heavily across a field, leading a shaggy
brown foal, and, in spite of his manhood, this was
the first foal that Ilya had ever seen. He suddenly
felt a great desire to have this shaggy steed for him-
self, and having money in his pocket though how
it had got there he could not tell he soon made
the purchase. He paid little attention to the price
asked by the greedy, crafty peasant, which was large
enough as a plain matter of horse-dealing, for Ilya
was no bargain driver.
i8 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
" Now," he said to himself, as he patted the
shaggy mane of the little horse, " I must take three
months to make this brown foal into a charger ; so
for that time, at least, I must dwell at home." He
therefore turned back to his father's cottage, and,
to the quiet delight of his mother, lived there for
the time he had appointed. Ilya did not think out
his plans for himself at this time, but had a curious
feeling that his way was being made plain before
him without his will.
The foal was at once tied up in the beast-stall
in his father's stable, and fed on the finest white
Turkish wheat to the great surprise of the old man,
who, however, made no remark, for the strange
things now happening in his household were rather
too much for him. When the shaggy brown foal
had been fed for three months in this careful and
very extravagant way, Ilya left it for three nights
in the garden so that the Powers of Heaven might
anoint it with three successive dews. After this,
he made a trial of the horse, which was now very
strong and frisky, and found that it had become a
truly heroic charger, capable of trotting and gallop-
ing, and while full of fire and spirit, obedient to its
master's lightest word. To this charger Ilya gave
the name of Cloudfall, and he now made preparations
for setting out on his adventures.
ILYA MEETS SVYATOGOR AND
PARTS WITH HIM
ILYA MEETS SVYATOGOR AND
PARTS WITH HIM
ILYA rose early one morning, dressed himself in
his best, and respectfully informed his parents that
he wished to leave his home. The old people, who
now felt that it would be very unwise, as well as
useless, to interfere in the proceedings of their wonder-
ful son, gave him their blessing. His father then
went off to his duties with a grunt, and his mother
turned to her cooking on the stove with a sigh ;
for the stove always reminded her of the cripple
boy who had been of no use to any one.
Meanwhile Ilya had saddled his good steed
Cloudfall, and in a short time had ridden far across
the open plain. As night was falling he came to a
large tent of fair white linen which had been set
up near a spreading oak tree. Peeping into this
pavilion, he saw a huge bed with the skins turned
down, the pillow smoothed, and everything ready
for rest. So he fastened Cloudfall to the oak, crept
into the bed, and fell into a deep slumber which
lasted for three days and three nights.
On the third day of the sleep of Ilya, Cloudfall
22 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
raised his head from his grazing and pricked up his
ears, for out of the north came a noise like an earth-
quake. Moist Mother Earth rocked from side to
side, the tall pines shook and staggered as if they
were about to fall headlong, and the water of the
river suddenly heaved and then overflowed its banks.
Roused by the sound, the intelligent animal beat
loudly with his hoof upon the earth in the hope of
rousing Ilya ; but the young man slept the sleep of a
Then Cloudfall put his head through the opening
of the tent and snouted above the storm in the
speech of Holy Russia, " Ho, ho ! Ilya, do you sleep
there and take your ease, unmindful of the great
misfortune that threatens to o'erwhelm you ? The
hero Svyatogor is coming to his pavilion where you
lodge unasked. Loose me, and let me take to the
open plain, and as for yourself, climb up at once
into the tall oak tree on the top of yonder hillock."
It would have been too wonderful if Ilya had
slept when this strange voice sounded in his ear.
Up he sprang, fresh from his slumber and wide
awake at once, as every young and healthy person
must be who has slept well, loosed the thong which
bound Cloudfall to the oak, and climbed without
further delay into the branches of the tree on the
When he looked down, he saw Svyatogor for the
first time, and there could be no doubt that he was
a hero. He was taller than the trees of the wood,
and his flowing locks seemed to be somewhat con-
ILYA MEETS SVYATOGOR 23
fused with the flying clouds. Upon his broad
shoulder he carried a casket of crystal, and when he
drew near to the pavilion by the first oak tree, he
stooped and set it gently upon the ground and
opened it with a key of gold.
The crystal door swung back without a sound,
and out stepped the wife of the hero. In all the
white world no beauty like this had ever been seen
or told. She was tall and stately, but she stepped as
daintily as a white hind. Her eyes were clear and
steady as those of the falcon, her eyebrows were as
black as a starless night, and the whiteness of her
skin dazzled the eyes of Ilya in his oak.
As soon as she had stepped out from the crystal
casket, she prepared the table for her lord, spreading
upon it a cloth of lawn with drawn thread-work as
white as Russia in winter, and placing upon it sweet-
meats of various kinds. Then she stepped back to
her crystal casket and brought out a flagon, wondrously
fashioned, containing mead, whose strength assailed
the nostrils of Ilya in his oak on the hillock with
a power which passed right through him. In a few
moments she sat down with her husband, and the
two ate and drank while the laughter of the hero
shook the trunk of Ilya's oak and the gentle murmur
of his fair companion's merriment rustled the leaves
in a tender whisper.
When Svyatogor had eaten well and drunk better,
he went into the pavilion, lay down on the broad
bed and fell fast asleep. But his beautiful wife
roamed about in the open plain, singing softly to
24 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
herself; and as she walked about she happened to
look up, and saw Ilya, who was gazing at her so
steadfastly that he seemed to be nothing but eyes.
" Come down," cried the hero's wife ; " come
down, good and stately youth. Come down out of
the damp oak, or I will tell my husband that you
have been unkind to me.' 3 Now it was not in
Ilya's nature to be unkind to any one, so without
further words he slipped nimbly down the trunk of
the oak ; and as soon as he touched the lap of moist
Mother Earth, the woman popped him into the
pocket of the sleeping hero, and by so doing roused
the latter from his heavy sleep.
The hero stretched himself, yawned, and sat up
blinking, for he was not so young as Ilya, and there-
fore did not wake so readily. Then he arose, placed
his wife in the crystal casket, locked it with the golden
key, mounted upon his horse, and took his way
towards the Holy Mountains.
As the hero rode onward his horse began to bend
at the knees and then to stumble, whereupon
Svyatogor beat him soundly with a silken whip.
The animal stopped short, turned his head and
said to his master in a human voice, " I was proud
enough to carry a hero and his heroic wife, casket
and all, but when I am obliged to add another hero
to my load, it is not surprising if I stumble."
Svyatogor looked round, and for the first time
was aware of his bulging pocket. A little further
investigation showed him that he was carrying a
fine young man with broad shoulders, on which was
' " Come down," cried the hero's wife '
ILYA MEETS SVYATOGOR 25
set the unmistakable head of a hero. In a moment
he had drawn Ilya from his deep pocket and was
holding him aloft while he questioned him with
Whence come you, young man ? ' he cried,
and at the sound of that terrible voice the mountains
shook, the forests waved, and the river found that
its usual channel was not steady enough to contain
it, while it occurred to Ilya that it would be best to
tell the truth. So he said boldly enough, though his
position could scarcely be described as dignified :
' It was the noble lady in the crystal casket who
bade me come down from the oak, and who placed
me in the pocket of your hero-ship." Then the
youth's eyes were filled with terror, for a fierce frown
suddenly creased the brows of Svyatogor, who turned
in his saddle, after having seated Ilya before him,
and hurled the crystal casket into the rushing, rocking
* Lie there, faithless one," he shouted ; " it was
surely of little avail to take you out locked up in a
glass case if you were to speak to the first goodly
young man you meet." Then with a huge gesture
of disgust he urged on his steed and took his way
along the side of a rocky mountain, talking pleasantly
to Ilya as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary.
He asked the young man about his parents, his
home, and the dearest wish of his heart, which he
found was to meet himself, the famous hero
Yes, I am he," said the rider as lightly as his huge
26 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
size permitted, " and I would gladly come among
you people of Holy Russia, but moist Mother Earth
is too soft to bear me up, and I am forced to ride on
the rocky crags and high precipices of the great
mountains which are strong enough to bear the
weight of myself and my steed. I will take you
with me to the Holy Mountains, for you are a young
man after mv own heart." And as thev rode onward
he told Ilya how a hero lived and how he did the
deeds which roused the wonder and the fear of all
Suddenly Svyatogor said to Ilya, When we
come to my home, I will present you to my father.
But before you meet him you must take care to heat
a piece of iron in the stove, and when he comes with
outstretched hand to greet you, take further care
not to place your hand within his own, but let him
grasp the heated iron."
Ilya promised to follow the instructions of his
friend, and before long they came across the craggy
peaks to the Holy Mountains, and on the summit of
one of them Ilya saw a wonderful palace of white
stone. The hero rode forward to the gateway,
where he was met by his aged father, whose beard
swept his knees like a snow-drift. " Welcome, my
dear child," said the old man, to whose tenderness
the giant on the mighty steed was still a loving
youngster. Welcome, and thrice welcome ! Have
you been far afield ? '
' I have been in Holy Russia, my father," was
the reply. " And what saw you in Holy Russia ? "
ILYA MEETS SVYATOGOR 27
asked the old man. " Nothing but melting snow
and moist land," said Svyatogor, "too moist indeed
for the feet of my steed. But stay, I did meet with
some one of note, and I have brought him with me."
The old man quickly raised his head, but the
movement was merely one of habit, for his eyes
were sightless. Sadly he dropped his chin once
more upon his breast, and said, ' Bring to me the
hero of Holy Russia that I may greet him."
In the meantime Ilya had found a piece of iron,
and having also found a furnace near the gate- way,
he quickly made the iron red-hot. Then he grasped
the glowing metal in his hand and went forward to
greet the blind father of his friend. The old man
held out his hand, but Ilya did not clasp it. He
placed in its palm the red-hot iron which the old man
grasped as if it had been the hand of a friend returned
after a long journey. As he felt its burning glow
he said, ' Thy hands are the hands of a hero, O Ilya,
son of strength. Now you are indeed worthy to
become the younger brother of Svyatogor. Come
within the palace of white stone and rest until the
call comes, which comes to all true men of deeds, to
sally forth upon yet another journey of adventure."
So Ilya and his elder brother went into the
palace of white stone and rested as long as they
could, which was not really long, for one morning
the sun shone and each found the other at the gate
looking with longing eyes upon the world.
Now as he looked outward, Ilya saw to his
surprise and pleasure that a horse was feeding near
28 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the outer wall of the palace of white stone. He
looked more closely and found to his great delight
that it was none other than his own good steed
Cloudfall. Quickly he ran to the horse and gaily
he greeted it, and before long he was mounted upon
its back and racing to and fro over the moist grass
before the palace of white stone. As he reached the
gate for the third time, he found Svyatogor mounted
also, and ready to set out with him in search of
adventure. Then they rode out along the ridge of
the Holy Mountains, and before long they came to a
great casket with a lid lying by its side, and upon
the lid was written the inscription, ' This casket shall
fit him for whom it has been hewn from the rock."
The inscription was a plain invitation to one of
adventurous spirit, and in a moment Ilya had leapt
from his horse and lay at full length within the
casket. But it was too long and too wide for him,
and he rose saying, ' It is not for me that this
casket was hewn from the rock."
The casket was meant for me," said Svyatogor,
quietly stepping into it and lying down. His words
were true enough, for his heroic body fitted it as if
he had been measured for it. Take the cover,
Ilya," he said, " and lay it over me." But his
younger brother had no desire to perform an entomb-
ment of this kind and he said :
I will not lift the cover, elder brother, and shut
you up in such a manner. Surely you would amuse
yourself with what is to me a jest of the poorest kind,
if you would prepare for your burial in this way ! '
ILYA MEETS SVYATOGOR 29
Svyatogor spoke not a word, but reaching forth
his hands lifted the lid and covered the casket with
it. Then he tried to raise it again, but found that it
was easier to get into such a casket than to get out of it.
He strove with all his mighty strength to lift the lid,
but even this was of no avail, and he cried out through
an aperture which still remained between the cover
and the side of the casket, ' Alas, my brother ! It
is clear that Fate, who is stronger than heroes, has
entangled me at last. I cannot raise the lid. Try to
lift it and live to say that you have rescued the prince
Ilya thereupon put forth all his strength but,
strong as he was, he could not raise the lid. " Take
my great battle-sword," said Svyatogor, " and strike a
blow across the cover. " Ilya grasped the sword , which
his brother had unbuckled, before he lay down, but
was not able to raise it from the earth, so great was
its weight. " I cannot lift it," he said in disgust
and despair, " to say nothing of wielding it." " Bend
down to this rift," replied his elder brother, " that
I may breathe upon you with my heroic breath."
Ilya obeyed the command, and when Svyatogor had
breathed warmly upon him, he felt new strength
rise within him, so that he was three times the man
he had been.
He was now able to raise the sword and struck
the lid of the casket a mighty blow, so that all the
Holy Mountains re-echoed with the sound. Sparks
of flame leapt from the lid of the casket, and an
iron ridge was formed upon the stone in the path of
3 o THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
that tremendous stroke, so as to strengthen the cover
rather than weaken it.
" I stifle, younger brother," cried the imprisoned
hero. " Try the effect of another blow upon the
lid of the fatal casket." Then Ilya smote the cover
lengthwise, and the sound of the blow re-echoed
more loudly among the Holy Mountains ; but the
only effect was to raise another ridge of iron upon
the lid. Again the imprisoned hero spoke im-
" I die, little brother. Bend down again so that
I may breathe once more upon you, and this time
give you all my heroic strength."
Then Ilya spoke, and as the words came from
his lips he felt as if a voice within him framed them
in despite of his own desires.
" My strength is enough, elder brother ; if I had
more, then moist Mother Earth would not be able
to bear me."
" You have done well, younger brother," said
the voice of Svyatogor, " in that you have disobeyed
my last command. Had I breathed upon you again,
it would have been with the breath of death. And
now, farewell ! Take my great battle-sword, which
you have fairly won, but tether my good steed to my
iron-bound tomb. None but Svyatogor may ride
Then Svyatogor spoke no more, and stooping to
the crevice Ilya was no longer able to hear the
whisper of his breathing. So he bound the good
steed to the casket, girt the great battle-sword about
ILYA MEETS SVYATOGOR
his waist, and rode forth upon Cloudfall into the
open plain. But as he turned away, he saw the
tears of the imprisoned Svyatogor flowing in a crystal
stream through the crevice in the iron-bound casket
on the lonely hills.
ILYA AND NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER
ILYA AND NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER
THIS is the story of the first of the nightingales,
those sweet singers of the evening, each of whom,
as the old books tell with certainty, sprang from a
poppy seed. And the sower of the first seeds of
the blood-red poppy was Ilya the Old Cossack, who
rode the shaggy bay steed Cloudfall.
As for Cloudfall, the shaggy bay steed, it is well
that you should try to picture him to yourselves.
He had a mane of very great length, and a tail ten
times as long as his mane, while the shaggy hair of
his rough coat was of three colours or tints. He
wore a bridle of leather plaited so as to be of enormous
strength, twelve saddle-cloths and twelve felts (so
cold it was in Holy Russia), and over these coverings
a strong leather saddle bound with metal. He had
twelve girths made of finest silk, not for display
and youthful vanity, but for strength and easiness of
movement. His stirrups were of engraved steel
brought from Damascus, where the good sword
blades are marked with strange devices ; the buckles
were of bronze which moist Mother Earth is not able
to rust, and which no amount of hard wear can in
36 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the least affect. Such was Cloudfall the shaggy bay
steed of Ilya the Old Cossack.
One Easter morning Ilya took his way to church
to greet his risen Master ; and as he stood before
the altar in the warm glow which lighted up the
sanctuary, he vowed a mighty vow, ' ' I will sing at
High Mass on this very Easter Day in the royal
town of Kiev, and I will go to Kiev by the straight
For a few moments Ilya stood in deep silence
before the altar, as if pausing to gather strength.
Then he vowed a second vow, and it was to this
effect as he took the straight way to the royal town
of Kiev he would not stain his hand, nor yet the
blade of his good keen sword with the blood of the
accursed Tatars, the enemies of Holy Russia. A
second time he stood in deep silence, as if pausing
to gather still more strength. Then he vowed a
third vow with his hand upon his mace of steel, and
it was to the effect that though he would go by the
straight way he would not make use of his fiery
After a third space of silence Ilya left the church
and came into the courtyard, where his shaggy bay
steed Cloudfall was awaiting him to take the heroic
journey to the city of Prince Vladimir, the Royal
Sun of Kiev. A few wondering peasants saw Ilya
as he strode across the courtyard, but as soon as he
was mounted upon Cloudfall they saw him no more,
so swift was the movement of the shaggy bay steed.
Their eyes tried to follow his flight for it was no
NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER 37
gallop but they seemed to see only a smoke-wreath
upon the open plain, or a swift movement like that
of a swirl of snow across the wind-swept steppe.
Over the grass skimmed Cloudfall, and over the
lakes and rivers, while his long tail streamed behind
him like that of a comet in the midnight sky ; high
above the lofty forests he soared, even above the oaks
which had stood there since the days before history
dawned, yet he kept lower than the drifting clouds ;
from mountain summit to mountain summit he
sprang, and in leaping along the low hill-ranges he
missed many of the tops in his flight ; and wherever
his hoofs fell, springs of water gushed forth from
the rock, but when he alighted on the open plain
smoke rose beneath his hoofs, wavered for a moment,
and then ascended in a steady column towards the
clouds. It was a ride or a flight to be remembered
for all time, and Ilya himself was not forgetful of
this. For he stopped his shaggy bay steed near a
forest, felled two mighty trees with his mace, and
erected a rough cross on which he carved with his
keen sword the following inscription : " Ilya the
Old Cossack rides to Royal Kiev on his first heroic
quest." Then he went again upon his wonderful
Now when he drew near to the city of Chernigof,
he saw before him a great host of Tatars, the enemies
of Holy Russia, marshalled under three princes,
each of whom commanded forty thousand men.
From their crowd of warlike steeds there arose a
cloud of steam so dense that it hid the sun by day
38 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
and the moon by night. When Ilya saw this great
host before him he remembered his vows, leapt
quickly to the earth, and knelt at the right foot of
' Lend me your aid, my shaggy bay steed," he
said, and the intelligent animal bowed his head in
reply, after which he raised it and sniffed the air
with quivering nostril. For a moment Ilya left his
side to wrench from moist Mother Earth a ring-
barked oak which he bound to the left stirrup of his
shaggy bay steed. Then he tore up another tree by
the roots, and mounting Cloudfall began to brandish
it in his right hand. " Any man can vow a vow, he
said grimly, " even before the high altar, but not
every man can keep his vow when he has made it ;
and my vow was to shed no blood with my keen
sword nor yet to use my fiery darts."
By this time Cloudfall was again passing through
the air swifter than a falcon in its flight, though his
progress was somewhat stayed when he reached the
outer rim of the watching host. Ilya brandished
his oak, and bringing it down with one mighty blow
after another cleared a path through the host as a
hurricane makes a lane through a forest. Through the
pathway Cloudfall passed, alighting upon the earth
again and again, and leaving wherever he touched
the host a heap of prostrate warriors. So did Ilya
the Old Cossack pass through the great host of
Tatars, the enemies of Holy Russia.
When the hero came to the gates of Chernigof he
found them strongly barred, and a keen watch kept
NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER 39
against the armies of the Tatars, who were reported
to be advancing upon the city. The wall was lofty
and broad, but not too high for Cloudfall, who
leapt over it with ease, to the great astonishment of
the guards and of the leaders who stood on one of
the towers in earnest council. Ilya alighted in the
broad courtyard of the church, and entering the holy
place found the citizens assembled for prayer, which
they hoped might avert the approaching calamity or
fortify them for the endurance of a cruel death.
Then Ilya stood forth amongst them and said
boldly, " Ye traders of Chernigof, and citizens all,
why do you pray when the time is come for action ?
Why do you meet together to bid farewell to the
white world with all its joys ? ' Then one of the
merchants, who was very richly dressed, explained
to Ilya, as if he were quite ignorant of outside
affairs, how the city was at that moment besieged by
the Tatars. Ilya made a slight gesture of impatience
and disgust, " Go out," he said, " upon the broad
wall of your famous city, and look towards the open
Then some of the men and a few of the bolder
maidens went out upon the ramparts, and in the place
where the Tatar banners had stood like a forest, the
accursed foes lay in great heaps of slain. Upon this
the men of the city bowed themselves before Ilya
and begged for the honour of his name. They also
besought him to stay with them and be their Tsar,
and that he would accept at their hands a bowl of
pure red gold, another of shining silver, and a third
4 o THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
of fine seed pearls. " Nay, I ask no gifts from you,"
said Ilya, " though I may possibly have earned them,
nor will I stay to be your Tsar. Go on with your
lives as of old, my brothers, but grant the favour of
showing me the straight way to Kiev town."
Again they bowed before him, and one of them,
speaking for the others, said, "It is twice as far by
the circling path as it is by the straight way, but you
must take the longer journey, for athwart the straight
way lie three barriers ; and the road is so lonely that
the grey wolf and the black raven avoid it, for it
is deserted even by the dead. The first mighty
barrier is a range of lofty mountains ; the second is
a rushing river of enormous breadth, bordered by
the Black Morass ; and the third is Nightingale the
' His enormous nest is built upon the tops of
seven oaks which saw the dawn of history. When he
whistles like a nightingale, roars like a lion, and hisses
like a serpent, the trees bow themselves to the earth,
the green leaves wither, and both horse and rider fall
to the ground as if they were dead."
This was enough to stir the soul of the heroic Ilya,
who forthwith mounted his shaggy bay steed Cloud-
fall, and rode out upon the straight way. In due
time he came to the lofty mountain range ; but this
barrier was not likely to prove insurmountable to the
shaggy bay steed which soared above it like an eagle
in its flight. Then they came to the broad rushing
river with the Black Morass by its margin, and Ilya,
dismounting, wrenched great oak trees from the
NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER 41
trembling grasp of moist Mother Earth and flung
them before him with one hand while he led Cloud-
fall over these bridges which he had made with the
other. Soon they came to the broad water, and when
Ilya had mounted, the shaggy bay steed cleared its
, rushing current in a single leap.
At last they came to the third barrier, no less
than Nightingale the Robber, who was known also
as the Magic Bird. As Ilya drew near to his oak
trees, Nightingale thrust his head out of the nest
and sent forth tongues of flame and showers of sparks
from his mouth and nostrils ; but this terrible sight
had no effect upon the stout heart of the heroic
Ilya. Nightingale the Robber therefore began to
sing like a bird, varying this entertainment with the
roar of a lion and the spiteful hiss of a dragon ;
and at last the combination of sounds was too much
even for Cloudfall. The shaggy bay steed began to
tremble with great violence, and then fell upon his
knees, whereupon Ilya proceeded to beat him without
You grass-bag," he cried in his anger, ' you
wolf -carrion, have you never passed through a
gloomy forest and heard the song of a bird, the roar
of a wild beast, and the hiss of a serpent ? See how
easily I shall overcome the Magic Bird ! '
Then Ilya went up to a willow tree that overhung
a brook, broke off a twig, and fitted it to his bow, in
order that he might keep his vow to abstain from
using his fiery darts. And as he drew his bow-string
he cried, " Fly, dart, fly ! Pierce the left eye of
42 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Nightingale the Robber, and come out at his right
Swish ! went the magic dart. Cloudfall rose to
his feet, and Nightingale the Robber fell from his
nest in the old oaks and dumped down upon the lap
of moist Mother Earth like an enormous sack of wheat.
Then Ilya the Old Cossack lifted the pestilent thief
from the ground by his yellow curling hair, bound
him securely to his stirrup, and went on his way
By and by they came to the palace of the Magic
Bird, where he used to retire with his spoils which
he had won in the forest. It was built on seven
pillars, and had a courtyard surrounded by an iron
paling on each spike of which was the head of a
luckless hero, for many brave men had tried to do
the deed which Ilya was now performing. Round
about the house were the greenest of gardens with
loveliest flowers of every hue, and in the midst of
these gardens was an orchard with heavily laden fruit
trees. From the latticed casements of the palace
looked forth the children of the Magic Bird, and
when they saw Ilya approaching on his shaggy bay
steed they cried out together, " See, Mother, here
comes our Father leading a man at his stirrup.
Shall w r e have the captive for dinner ? '
But Elena, one of the children of the Magic
Bird, had only one eye and therefore was a witch ;
and when she looked out from her own particular
latticed casement she saw what had really happened
and spoke the truth. " Nay, children," she cried,
Nightingale the Robber fell from his nest in the old oaks
NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER 43
" it is Ilya the Old Cossack on his shaggy bay steed
Cloudfall, and he rides towards us, bringing our
Father as a prisoner."
" Crick ! Crock ! Crack ! ' cried the children in a
croaking chorus ; "we will at once change ourselves
into ravens and rend that peasant hero in pieces
with our beaks of iron. Then shall the fragments
of his white body be scattered on the bosom of moist
Mother Earth." But Nightingale the Robber, who
was not yet dead, shouted out a command that no
harm was to be done to Ilya the Old Cossack. This
order, however, had no effect upon the one-eyed
daughter, who ran quickly into the courtyard, tore
up a heavy steel beam from the threshold, and raising
it aloft, hurled it at Ilya with all her strength.
So fierce was the attack of the one-eyed witch-
daughter of Nightingale the Robber, that even Ilya,
whose saddle-seat was so secure, wavered for a
moment, and it was only with great difficulty and
much skill that he was able to avoid the full force
of the angry blow. Then he leapt lightly from his
shaggy bay steed and, remembering his vow, raised
his right foot and caught the witch with the full force
of his outstretched toe. Up she went into the air,
higher than the height of a great cathedral, higher
than the cross upon its topmost dome, and then she
fell down with a bony rattle against the rear wall of
the courtyard, and her skin burst with a sharp
" Fools all ! " shouted Nightingale the Robber.
" Fools now and always ! Fetch from the cellar
44 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
a heaped-up waggon-load of red gold, another of
white silver, and a third of fine seed pearls. Give
all these treasures to Ilya the Old Cossack, and to
Cloudfall, his shaggy bay steed, and see if these fine
gifts will not induce him to set me free in a trice.
Ha, ha ! "
But Nightingale the Robber chuckled too soon,
for Ilya said in a voice that showed no doubtfulness,
' If I should plant my lofty spear in the bosom of
moist Mother Earth, and if you were to heap up
about it red gold, white silver, and fine seed pearls
until not even the sharp tip of it could be seen, yet
would I not set you free, Nightingale the Robber,
you pestilent thief and father of stealing. You shall
come with me forthwith to the glorious town of Kiev,
and there you shall receive such forgiveness as you
Then Ilya mounted Cloudfall once more, and the
shaggy bay steed began to prance while Nightingale
the Robber began to dance ; and thus prancing
and dancing they came to Kiev, the city of Prince
When they arrived the Prince was in the cathedral,
and hearing this, Ilya went at once to the sacred
courtyard, where he fastened Cloudfall to a golden
ring in a tall carven pillar, and said to him, ' Keep
watch and ward upon Nightingale the Robber,
Cloudfall, my faithful shaggy bay steed, and see that
he escapes not from my stirrup of damascened
steel." Then to the Magic Bird he spoke, " Pre-
sume not, Nightingale the Robber, to depart from the
NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER 45
side of my good charger, for there is no place in all
the white world where you will be hidden from my
Then in fulfilment of his first vow Ilya went to the
church for the Easter mass ; and when he saw Prince
Vladimir among the worshippers, he made obeisance
to him, but not before he had devoutly crossed
himself and done reverence to North, South, East, and
West. When the mass had been celebrated, Prince
Vladimir sent to summon the stranger hero to his
Easter feast ; and obedient to the invitation which
was really a command, Ilya went to the royal palace,
where the Prince asked him to which horde and
country he belonged, and who were his parents.
" Sire," said Ilya, " I am the honourable son of
honourable parents who reap their own meadow to
feed their own beasts in their own farm, surrounded
by the pine forest of Murom. Now as I greeted my
Risen Lord at matins this morning, I vowed to come
hither by the straight way, and I came."
The speaker ceased, and the group of heroes,
warriors, notabilities, and fair ladies who stood near
the Prince stared at him in unbelieving astonish-
" Good youth," said Prince Vladimir, " you are
fair to look upon, but none the less you must be a
son of the Father of Lies. Why, the straight way has
been lost for thirty years, and all men know of it is
that athwart it lie great barriers. There are in the
plains great hordes of accursed Tatars, the enemies
of Holy Russia ; then there is a broad rushing river
46 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
bordered by the Black Morass ; and, last of all, among
the shining birches, on the top of seven great oaks
which saw the dawn of history, is raised the nest of
Nightingale the Robber. Moreover, that Magic Bird
hath nine strong sons and eight ugly daughters, of
whom one has only a single eye, and is therefore a
witch. Now Nightingale the Robber hath per-
mitted neither horse nor man to pass by him for
' Nay, sire," said Ilya with perfect calm, " I did
indeed come by the straight way, and Nightingale
the Robber now sitteth as a prisoner securely bound
within the sacred court of the holy temple, where all
who thieve must be bound hand and foot."
Now the astonishment and curiosity which fell
upon the company at this announcement was so
great that it overcame the hunger of the lords and
ladies, who forgot also their courtly dignity as they
scrambled out from the palace to see the wonder, or
at least to test the truth of Ilya's words. But Prince
Vladimir and Princess Apraxia went out slowly upon
the railed balcony.
And there they saw the wonder for themselves
Nightingale the Robber sitting securely bound to
the steel stirrup of Cloudfall, the shaggy bay steed,
with one eye fixed on Kiev city and the other on
far-distant Chernigof, according to the habit he had
acquired when awaiting the sallies of champions
from those two cities within the security of his lofty
Then said Prince Vladimir, full of wonder mixed
NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER 47
with curiosity, Whistle, Nightingale the Robber,
roar like a lion, and hiss like a serpent." But the
Magic Bird replied with a strange smile which had a
long way to travel across his face from eye to eye.
" I am not your prisoner, Prince Vladimir, and do
not eat from your bountiful hand. However, bring
me a bowl of wine, for I am plaguily thirsty, and then
we shall see what will happen."
" Give him a bowl of green wine," said Ilya to
the waiting attendants, " a large bowl, capable of
accommodating a bucket and a half. And bring a
large cake of fine wheat flour, for the mouth of
the Magic Bird is parched, and his whistle, roar,
and hiss will not be worth hearing if he is not
Then Vladimir himself came forward bringing
three large bowls, one of green wine, the drink of
princes, a second of vodka, the drink of peasants, and
a third of sweet mead, the drink of fair ladies ; and
Nightingale the Robber drained each of the bowls at
a draught. Thereupon Ilya commanded the Magic
Bird to whistle, roar and hiss, but to do so under
his breath lest harm should come to the royal party,
of whom the ladies were now preparing to hide
behind the gentlemen, while the gentlemen were
trying to persuade the ladies that it was very uncourtly
to stand before such peerless beauties.
Then that wicked pestilent thief began to smile
from one eye to the other, and it seemed as if a
stormy gleam of light passed across the open steppe
from Chernigof to Kiev ; and out of malice of which
48 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
his black heart was full, he gave his entertainment
at full strength.
At the sounds which he made all the ancient
palaces in the royal city cracked, tottered, and tumbled
to the ground ; the new palaces rocked, and only
kept their upright position with a great effort. The
roofs of all the poorer houses moved from their
places and fell into the streets, while the walls
remained, for they were of a tumble-down character
in their ordinary state, and not knowing which way
to fall decided to remain as they were. Moist Mother
Earth quivered like a man with the ague, the horses
of the heroes stampeded from the palace stables,
the beautiful young ladies hid themselves in corners,
and the gay youths were so terrified that they ran
into other corners far away, where, of course, they
could not comfort them. Ilya leaned over the
balcony and caught up Prince Vladimir under one
arm and the Princess Apraxia under the other in
order to protect them ; yet the Prince fell into a
swoon from which he did not emerge for three
Then said Ilya, son of strength, in the mightiness
of his wrath, " For this base deed of thine, Nightin-
gale the Robber, thou shalt die ! '
" Spare a few of his family," pleaded Prince
Vladimir, who had now recovered, and who had
never been of a vindictive disposition. ' Spare me
myself," begged the' Magic Bird, * and you shall
have all my money to build a monastery."
" Nay," said Ilya, <c I will sweep away his pestilent
NIGHTINGALE THE ROBBER 49
brood and scatter his bones to the winds. As for his
ill-gotten gold, no monastery would stand or receive
a blessing which was built with it."
Thereupon he took Nightingale the Robber in
his strong white hands and led him far out upon the
open plain. There he fitted a burning arrow to his
stout bow, for his vow no longer held him, seeing
that he had come to Kiev by the straight way, and
shot the fiery dart into the black breast of the Magic
Bird. After that he struck off his pestilent head and
scattered his bones to the winds. Then he sought
out his family and scattered their bones to the winds
also, and mounting Cloudfall, his shaggy bay steed,
he went once more to Prince Vladimir.
By this time the royal company had somewhat
recovered their composure, and in order to hide their
confusion were busily conversing about the day before
yesterday. When Ilya arrived they were seated at the
white tables eating savoury viands from the board
and drinking green wine and sweet mead ; and they
complimented Ilya very prettily, as soon as he had
washed himself. When the feast was over, the Prince
gave the hero the supreme honour of ever henceforth
styling himself Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, for
it was reckoned the highest honour that a hero
should take his title from the land on which he was
born, especially if it was owned by his father ; and
Ilya, being a true gentleman, valued this distinction
infinitely higher than a heaped-up waggon-load of
red gold, another of white silver, and a third of fine
THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
As for those bones of the Magic Bird which were
scattered to the winds, as they fell to earth they
became seeds of the blood -red poppy, from the
flowers of which came the first sweet whistling
nightingales who know nothing of the roar of the
lion or the hiss of the serpent.
ILYA AND FALCON THE HUNTER
ILYA AND FALCON THE HUNTER
ONE day Ilya rode his shaggy bay steed Cloudfall
across the open steppe ; and as he went slowly
onward he was thinking deeply, for he had performed
many deeds of the greatest valour, and was now
wondering greatly what he should do next.
" I have visited many lands," he said in a brooding
voice, " and have seen many strange people, but for
a long time I have not visited Kiev, where I took
Nightingale the Robber as a prisoner firmly bound
to my stirrup of bright steel. I will go now to Kiev
once more, so that I may see what is happening in
the household of Prince Vladimir."
Raising his head and smiling quietly like a man
filled with a secret purpose, he gave Cloudfall the
rein, and before he could say " SVYATOGOR " he was
in the city of Kiev, where it was told him by a cook
whom he met hurrying across the street that Prince
Vladimir was holding a merry feast.
Ilya at once tethered Cloudfall to the carven
pillar in the cathedral court and took his way on foot
to the banquet -hall of Prince Vladimir, which he
entered without invitation, knowing that all way-
54 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
farers were welcome to the board of the hospitable
As soon as he had passed the threshold, Ilya
bowed to North, South, East, and West, and then to
Prince Vladimir and Princess Apraxia in particular,
thinking that the royal couple would surely have a
clear remembrance of all the wonderful things that
had taken place on his last visit to their town. But
neither the Prince nor the Princess knew him again,
and it was as a perfect stranger that Vladimir addressed
" What is your name and to which horde do you
belong ? ' he asked ; " and have you any title of
degree ? '
" Fair Sun Vladimir," said Ilya, who was secretly
taken aback at his reception, but determined not to
show it, "I am called Nikita from beyond the
" Welcome, my brave and merry little fellow,"
said the Prince with great heartiness ; 'sit down at
our board and eat and drink freely. You will find
a little room at the lower end of yonder table. I
am sorry there is not more room, but your sharp
eyes will see at once that I feast to-day a noble
company of princes, statesmen, wealthy merchants,
and bold warrior-maids as well as sixty great Russian
heroes whose adventures have been many."
Now Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack did not
relish the tone of the Prince's speech, and felt it a
deep humiliation that the conqueror of Nightingale
the Robber should break the royal bread at the
FALCON THE HUNTER 55
lower end of the table. His anger rose, and raising
his head he cried :
" Fair Sun Vladimir, do you think to place me
among the crows while you feast with the eagles ?
Nay ! I will not eat bread with those beneath my
Such a speech from a man who had made no
claim to higher rank than that of Nikita from beyond
the Forest, who was clearly a nobody, roused in
turn the anger of the Prince. He sprang nimbly to
his feet, his face as black as a thunder-cloud, and
roared like a crowded den of wild beasts :
" Ho, there, ye mighty heroes of Holy Russia !
Will you hear yourselves classed with carrion crows ?
Seize the stranger, but take care that three of you
hold each arm, hale him to the courtyard and
strike off his head." Then there was a great com-
motion, and the cooks began to wring their hands, for
they knew that if they did not keep the food hot
while the quarrel was proceeding, the Prince would
need new cooks on the following day.
Three heroes grasped the right arm of Ilya and
three heroes grasped his left arm. He waved his
right hand and three heroes fell breathless to the
floor of red brick ; then he waved his left hand and
three heroes fell on top of them. Thereupon Vladi-
mir roared out a command that twelve fresh heroes
should seize him, but these champions fared like
their fellows. Then twelve more rose before him
and six more behind ; and these met the same fate
as the rest.
56 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Meanwhile the cooks had been able to snatch
away the dishes from beneath the nose of the angry
Prince and were now hurrying away to place them
in the ovens. Then they heaved in unison such a
sigh of relief that the fire burned as brightly as it
burns upon a frosty night.
Ilya strode forth from the banquet-hall and the
anger burned fiercely within his breast. When he
reached the courtyard he turned about and fitted
an arrow to his bow. As he drew the cord he
whispered to the shaft, ' Fly, my dart, about the
princely towers and strike off the spires and crosses
of gold from the royal palace." Off went the arrow,
but it did not travel by a straight road. It made a
circuitous tour of the pinnacles and domes of the
stately building, and as it went on its way spire after
spire and cross after cross tumbled down upon the
pavement. Ilya gathered up these golden trophies,
went to the tavern in the market-place and ordered
the landlord to bring out his best green wine, for
which he would pay with the royal spires and
crosses. Then he stood in the doorway and invited
all the loafers of the market-place to come and drink
the health of Prince Vladimir, who had been good
enough, as he grimly remarked, to provide the means
of drinking it."
For once the loafers hesitated to lift the green
wine to their lips. What will the Prince do to us
in the morning," they asked, ' when he finds that
we have drunk up all his golden spires and crosses ? '
" Drink, my men," said Ilya. " To-morrow I
FALCON THE HUNTER 57
myself will reign as Prince in Kiev town, and ye
shall be my chiefs." Then they drank and drank
again ; but Ilya of Murom did not put the bowl to
his lips in such company, for he merely meant to
use these men in his determination to win respect
and ample apology from the Prince.
In the meantime Prince Vladimir sat at the
board with the hungry revellers about him ; but he
was so deeply wrapped in thought that he did not
even notice that the cooks had taken away the dishes.
Who is this who has come to town ? ' he asked
moodily. Then a young nobleman, whose name was
Nikitich, sprang to his nimble feet and said, " I
have met all the mighty heroes of Holy Russia save
one, and that one is Ilya of Murom, who, I have
heard, will not die in battle. This wonderful visitor
is no Nikita from beyond the Forest. It must be
none other than Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack.
I fear, my Prince, with all respect to your Highness,
that you did not know how to pay worthy honour to
your guest either at his coming or his going."
The Prince's face lighted up, for the young
nobleman who had spoken was the only man in the
whole of the company who could read and write,
and on that account was privileged to speak his
mind when his fellows feared for their heads.
Whom shall we send," asked Prince Vladimir,
* to invite the hero to our banquet ? ' (At these
words some of the cooks hurried off to prepare fresh
food.) ' My royal chamberlain will not know how
to address him, and my chief page is like a peacock
58 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
-only fit to strut about in the sun among the women.
Go you, Nikitich, for you can read and write and
therefore have supernatural wisdom. Bow down
before him, with your forehead upon moist Mother
Earth, and invite him by his name and title thrice
repeated to honour us with his presence at a worship-
" Say that I did not, to my lasting sorrow,
recognise him when I placed him at the lower end of
the board, but that now I entreat him to honour us
with his truly remarkable presence. Tell him that
I bear no ill-will for what has passed, and that instead
of sitting at the lower end of the board though
there is now more room in that quarter - - he shall
sit in the great corner near to the Princess Apraxia
Now Nikitich, having learnt to read and write,
did not act upon rash impulse, but stood for a few
moments looking supernaturally wise and weighed
the matter with the utmost circumspection. " Shall
I go ? ' he asked himself. " It may mean sudden
death for me at the hands of Ilya. On the other
hand, it will certainly mean slow death at the hands
of Prince Vladimir if I do not obey. Perhaps I had
better go." Then with a low bow to the Prince and
another to the Princess, he left the banquet-hall with
the step of resolution.
In a few moments he came to the tavern where
he saw Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack sitting grimly
watching the loafers while they drank the health of
Prince Vladimir. " It will be better," said Nikitich
FALCON THE HUNTER 59
to himself, " if I come upon him from behind, for
then I shall be able to deliver my message without
being put in deadly fear by his eyes of terror." So
he approached Ilya from behind as he sat there and,
placing his hands upon the hero's mighty shoulders,
told him all that Prince Vladimir had said ; but
being able to read and write, and therefore full of
supernatural wisdom, he missed out the sentence
about the Prince bearing no ill-will for what had
Had he been able to watch the face of Ilya as he
spoke the Prince's message, Nikitich would have
seen a bright gleam of laughter steal into the terrible
eyes of the Old Cossack. But when the speech was
over, Ilya did not turn his head. "It is well for
you, young Nikitich," he said grimly, " that you
come upon me from behind. If you had approached
me from before, your body would have been dust
and ashes before now. Go at once and deliver to
Prince Vladimir the following message in answer to
his own :
' Let strict orders be issued to all the inn-keepers
of Kiev and Chernigof that they invite all who care
to come to quaff green wine at the expense of Prince
Vladimir ; and for those who care not for green
wine let vodka, the drink of the peasants, be provided ;
while those who love neither shall drink sweet mead
beloved of fair ladies and their squires. By this all
men shall know that Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack
who led captive Nightingale the Robber is now come
to town. Let the Prince also prepare an honourable
60 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
banquet and reserve the great corner near the high
table for me.
" Otherwise," continued Ilya, at last turning his
head and fixing his heroic eyes on the young man
of supernatural wisdom who could both read and
write, " otherwise " But the ambassador of Prince
Vladimir did not stay to enquire what would happen.
The sight of Ilya's countenance was enough for him,
and only the drunken loafers heard the completion
of the hero's threat " the Prince shall reign in Kiev
no longer than to-morrow's morn."
Then quickly, quickly, very very quickly, and
with lightning speed, ran the wise young man to
Prince \ladimir, and quickly, quickly, very very
quickly, and with lightning speed, were the * re-
quests ' of Ilya complied with. Great crowds
drew to the tavern, though they came not to drink
but to see the Old Cossack. They were however
disappointed, for Ilya had gone, post-haste upon the
heels of the envoy, to take his place at the banquet,
taking his invitation for granted. But being a
true gentleman, he bowed on entering the hall to
the North, South, East, and West, and then in
particular to Prince Vladimir and Princess Apraxia.
Vladimir rose quickly to his feet and cried with
hands extended, " Ho, there, Ilya of Murom the Old
Cossack. Here is a place for you beside me, in the
great corner near the stove. Or if it please you to sit
elsewhere it shall be as you will." So Ilya sat in the
great corner, and before long the cooks and the serving
men were passing to and fro like a whirlwind.
FALCON THE HUNTER 61
Now, as they sat at meat and as the wine pails
freely passed, there happened a very great wonder ;
for Prince Vladimir turned to pledge Ilya of Murom
the Old Cossack, and behold ! he no longer sat in the
great corner. The Prince rubbed his eyes in astonish-
ment, but the Princess, with a somewhat scornful
smile, told him to look for Ilya under the banquet
table. Then they looked, but Ilya was not there.
So the Prince sent out messengers upon the broad
road which ran for fort}- furlongs to the city of
Galich ; but Ilya was not upon the broad road, and
the only man they met was an old pilgrim who was
making his way slowly and painfully to Kiev town.
His smock was tattered with use, and a ragged girdle
was bound about his waist. His cap was heavy
with moisture, his feet were covered with rotten
straw, and he leaned so heavily upon a crooked staff
that the moist earth squirted out beneath his step.
The ancient pilgrim entered the town and went
to the chief inn, where he asked courteously enough
for a pail and a half of green wine. You old grey
dog," said the inn-keeper, " we do not trust such as
you, nor can we give you green wine without your
money." Then the old man took from his neck
a cross of gold, wonderfully chased, of great weight,
and clearly of as great antiquity. Take this cross in
payment," he said, but not one of the men dared to
handle it. Then seeing that the old man was faint
for want, the peasants about the place gave each a
kopeck that he might have his wine ; and when it
was brought to him he drank it in a draught and a
62 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
half and at a breath and a half. Having done this,
he climbed upon the stove, lay down as if he were in
his mother's cottage, and fell fast asleep.
Very early in the morning, as the warm red sun
arose, the old pilgrim descended from the stove,
went down to the cellars, burst open the door with
his foot, took a cask of wine under each arm and
rolled a third before him with his right great toe.
So he came out to the green meadow and then into
the market-place, where he shouted out, in a voice
wonderfully strong for so aged a pilgrim, " Ho, ye
peasants of the village, come to the old man's feast."
By this time, however, the men from the tavern were
upon him ; but though there were many of them
they could not take the wine from the old man, so
they went to make their complaint to Prince Vladimir.
' Bring him before me," said the royal judge,
and they did so. Then the ancient pilgrim raised
his eyes, and by means of the smile in the depths of
them Vladimir knew him for Ilya of Murom the Old
' Plague upon my love of fun," Said Ilya, ' but
these thick-headed varlets are easily imposed upon.
Let me pay them for my fun and, Prince, give me
work worthy of a hero."
The time demands a hero's help," said Prince
Vladimir, ' for my royal city goes in fear by day
and passes sleepless nights in terror for Falcon the
Hunter, who rides the heavens and can pass over the
loftiest barriers to hurl his fiery darts upon every
golden pinnacle which rears upward to the sky.
FALCON THE HUNTER 63
Make a barrier, Ilya, upon the road by which he
comes, and check him, if you can, with fiery shafts
from your magic bow."
Then Ilya's eyes gleamed with pleasure, and he
called for six of the mightiest heroes to help him to
form a barrier in the path of Falcon the Hunter;
and among the six was Nikitich, the young man of
supernatural wisdom who could both read and
write, as well as Vaska Longskirt, who was very brave
but hampered in his fighting by his voluminous coat
in which he defied the white world. The seven
made a strong barrier on the road by which Falcon
the Hunter took his flight, so strong that no horseman
ever so swift could gallop by, nor wayfarer circum-
vent it ; no wild beast could break it, and if a raven-
ing eagle or carrion crow soared above it the fiery
darts of Ilya brought it down in a shower of feathers
and a rain of blood. " Surely/' said Princess
Apraxia, whose bright eyes always closed involuntarily
as Falcon the Hunter was seen riding upon the clouds,
" we shall be safe from the horror that stalks in the
darkness by reason of the barrier of Ilya of Murom."
But late that night young Falcon the Hunter
passed by, leaping from one low black cloud to
another, and with a dazzling smile scorning the barrier
of the seven heroes. In the early dawn Ilya went
forth and traced the footsteps of his black horse a
blasted pine tree with its heart scorched to charcoal,
a tall tower, and several golden pinnacles of the royal
pavilion lying upon the bosom of moist Mother
Earth. He went back to his brother heroes. " While
64 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
we slept until the white dawn," he cried in a loud
voice, " Falcon the Hunter swept by in his malignity.
What a barrier is this of ours ! What a fortress !
Let us arm ourselves, my friends, and go out upon
the steppe to seek this rash intruder whose malignant
glance causes the Princess Apraxia to close her eyes
in fear." Then they sat down in a circle to hold a
wise council, having no immediate fear of Falcon
the Hunter, who never came to the city of many
golden pinnacles while the sun shone broadly upon it.
Whom shall we send against Falcon the
Hunter ? ' asked Ilya, who did not intend to go
himself until the others had failed. ' It is of little
use sending Vaska Longskirt, for he will get en-
tangled in the tails of his coat. Nikitich must go,
and if he finds that Falcon the Hunter is a Russian
he shall swear eternal brotherhood with him on
behalf of all of us. But if he finds he is an infidel
he shall challenge him to mortal combat."
Then Nikitich sprang to his nimble feet, saddled
and mounted his good steed, and rode forth to the
place where a great river met the dark-grey sea.
As he looked along the straight road he saw a rider
before him who sat upon his horse with the assurance
of youth and victory. His black steed was full of
mettle and fresh from the untamed steppe. At
each leap he covered a furlong, and the marks
which the hoofs of his horse made upon the bosom
of moist Mother Earth were as large as a ram
or a full-grown sheep. Flames flashed from the
mouth of the steed, lighting up the heavy clouds
FALCON THE HUNTER 65
which hung over the dark - grey sea, sparks of
blue fire showered from his nostrils, and from his
erected ears smoke curled in tiny wreaths which
quivered and then vanished in mid - air. The
helmet on the head of the hero glowed like fire, and
blue rays of light darted from ornaments on his
doubtlet, from his pointed spurs and his stirrups of
bright steel. At his left stirrup ran a swift grey-
hound, and a fire-eating dragon was chained to the
right which sang and whistled with a strange music
as the horse and its rider passed on towards the dark-
grey sea. From shoulder to shoulder hopped the
clear-eyed bird from which Falcon the Hunter took
his name, and as it passed it plucked at the long
yellow locks of the rider, which streamed upon his
shoulders like tongues of living flame.
The knight sat easily upon the back of his
strange steed, and as he rode he amused himself by
hurling his bright steel mace towards the lowering
clouds which hung threatening over the dark-grey
sea. It flashed across the cloudy barrier, making a
bright reflection in the heaving water, and then
returned obedient to the hand of Falcon the Hunter
without touching either sea or land in its flight.
As he played, Falcon the Hunter spoke to his wonder-
ful mace : " Lightly as I now whirl this mace
aloft, even so lightly will I twirl Ilya of Murom the
Then Nikitich called out, " Ho, there, Falcon
the Hunter ! Have you no fear of our barrier ? '
Falcon replied over his shoulder, " 'Tis not for
66 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
youths even of supernatural wisdom to pursue me
in the open plain. It is high time that you were
hiding from me in the deep depths of a feather-bed/'
When Falcon the Hunter spoke, the waters of
the sea were troubled, flecks of foam appeared upon
the deep, and the shallows were choked with sand.
The charger of Nikitich trembled sorely and fell
down upon its knees, while its rider sank upon the
bosom of moist Mother Earth, where he lay as if in
a trance for the space of three full hours. When he
awoke, the sun was shining brightly, the waves upon
the ocean danced in glee, and the tumbled rack of
grey clouds on the horizon was all dispersed and
scattered. But Falcon the Hunter was no longer to
be seen, for with all his terrors he was afraid of the
jolly sun with his broad and welcoming smile.
Nikitich now mounted his charger and rode off
at once to report to Ilya the Old Cossack. The old
man listened quietly and then said with a sigh,
" I grow old, and yet there is none coming after me
to take my place." Then he saddled his good
charger Cloudfall and sprang upon his back without
making any use of the stirrups. On the saddle-strap
hung his war club, mighty in weight ; on his left
hip rested his sharp sword and in his hand he held
his silken whip ; but for this encounter he placed
most reliance upon the fiery darts in the quiver upon
his broad back and in the strength of his mighty
bow. Thus armed he rode forth into the darkness
of the mountains, where he found Falcon the Hunter
leaping from summit to summit and rousing the
FALCON THE HUNTER 67
cavernous echoes with his fear - compelling voice.
But neither the flashing flames nor the rolling angry
accents struck terror to the heart of Ilya, for with a
quick movement he shifted his quiver, which was
open at both ends, so that the points of the darts
pointed heavenwards, and from these points streamed
a blue radiance which enveloped the form of the
hero like a protecting halo.
Above the noise of the voice of Falcon the Hunter
was heard the voice of the heroic Ilya. * Ho there ! '
he cried, " Thief, dog, braggart ! Why have you
passed our barrier without doing reverence to me
or asking my leave ? ' When the Hunter heard
this challenge he turned and rode at Ilya, and for a
moment, though only for a moment, the heart of
the hero died within him. But with a tighten-
ing of the strap of that wonderful quiver, so that
even in the fight his fiery darts should point heaven-
wards, he rushed into the fray. First they fought
with their maces until these snapped short at the
hilt, but neither fighter was wounded in the least.
Then their swords flashed fire until both were
splintered, but still neither fighter was wounded in
the least. Next they fought with their spears until
both were shattered, and even yet neither fighter
was wounded in the least. Last of all they lighted
down upon the ground and fought hand to hand.
All day they fought, till stormy even, till black
midnight, till the grey dawn, and so they did the
second day, and likewise the third. Then Ilya
waved his right hand, and his left foot slipped
68 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
from under him. Down he fell like a stack of
hay, but as he fell he was able to move his quiver
so that the fiery darts with their streaming blue fire
pointed directly heavenwards. As he lay there
Falcon the Hunter planted himself upon his breast
and struck at him with a flashing dagger of steel.
But the blow fell upon the upturned points of those
wonderful darts and spent itself on the broad bosom
of moist Mother Earth.
" See ! ' cried Ilya with a grim laugh. " It was
foretold of me that I should not die in battle. Oh,
brave good youth, tell me from what horde you
come and who were your parents."
" It is time," growled Falcon the Hunter, " that
you should shave your head and go to a monastery."
At this taunt the heart of Ilya grew hot and his blood,
still youthful, boiled within him. With a mighty
blow of his fist he struck Falcon on his black breast,
hurling him skywards, though not so high as the
heavy clouds which lowered above the heroic fight.
When the Hunter fell once more, Ilya sprang to his
nimble feet and sat in his turn upon the breast of
" Tell me now, good youth," he said, " the name
of thy land, thy horde, and thy father."
" When I sat upon thy breast," growled Falcon
the Hunter, " I did not enquire of thee thy land,
thy horde, and thy parentage, for these things con-
cern not me, the enemy of all mankind. And if I
sat upon it again I would pierce your bosom, pluck
out your heart and examine it in mere curiosity, and
FALCON THE HUNTER 69
then scatter the fragments of your white body over
the plain, to be torn by the grey wolf and picked by
the black crows."
Then Ilya asked his enemy no more questions
but drew forth his shining dagger of steel ; and at the
sight of this gleaming weapon the heart of Falcon
the Hunter sank within his breast and he gave the
answer required of him :
" I come from far across the sea, from the palace
of grey stone where the sun has no power to enter,
and my mother was the warrior- queen Zlatigorka.
The name of my father I do not know. When I
left the palace of grey stone my mother, who now is
gentle, told me to meet Ilya of Murom the Old
Cossack if I could, and having met him to dismount
from my horse and do reverence to him, touching my
forehead upon the bosom of moist Mother Earth."
Then the fierce eyes of Ilya grew soft with com-
passion, and his mind went back to the far-off day
when he crossed the deep-blue sea in the strength
of his manhood to see the palace of grey stone and
to talk with the warrior-queen who ruled there ;
for he had vowed that he would win the love of that
brave Princess and take her as his bride. Now,
being a hero, and the maiden a right worthy mate
for him, he could not hope, nor would he care, to
win the Princess except he had first proved that he
was stronger than she ; and for a long time the two
had striven day after day until at times their hearts
were sick of the eternal conflict, yet neither could
bring it to an end. Then at last the warrior-queen
70 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
had weakened and had yielded, and had found more
joy in yielding than in conquest ; and Ilya had
given her his golden ring set with a ruby red as a
flaming heart, while she had given him a wondrous
cross of gold to wear upon his heroic breast ; and
the two had lived in the palace of grey stone until
a son was born to them and the fighting queen had
forgotten her weapons and her warrior strength
in her motherhood. Then Ilya had been called
away on one of his many quests, and the boy had
grown up without his heroic guidance to become a
scourge to his gentle mother and to all mankind.
And as he thought on these matters, the heart of
Ilya was saddened beyond measure, and stooping
over Falcon the Hunter he took him by his white
hands, kissed his lips and called him his son, weeping
greatly as he looked upon him. Then raising his
hands he blessed him and said :
' Ride, my son, to the margin of the waters,
and then cross the grey sea until you come to the
palace of grey stone and to your lady mother who
lives only in her memories. Greet her lovingly
from me, and say that Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack
keeps her ever in his golden heart."
Then Falcon the Hunter rose to his feet and
prepared to do his father's bidding. But when he
came to the porch of the palace of grey stone these
were the words he uttered :
; Ho, there, bold and evil woman ! Come forth !
Was it indeed the son of a peasant whom you gave
me for a father ? "
FALCON THE HUNTER 71
Then his mother came out upon the porch, and
though her face was grey with double grief and she
stooped as if she needed the strong arm of a brave
man about her shoulders, the undutiful son struck
at her with his flashing sword and she fell dead upon
Even this piteous sight did not touch the cold
and fiery heart of Falcon the Hunter, who shouted
out so that the walls of the palace of grey stone rang
again, " I go now to give the old peasant, Ilya of
Murom, to speedy death." Thereupon he crossed
the grey sea over which the angry clouds were lower-
ing, mounted his charger, and rode quickly towards
the fair white linen pavilion of Ilya of Murom the
Lifting the curtain of the tent, he found his father
sleeping and hurled a burning shaft at him ; but it
struck the wondrous cross of gleaming gold which Ilya
wore upon his heroic breast and glanced harmlessly
aside, though the mighty blow roused the hero from
his slumber. He leapt from his couch, seized his
undutiful son by his yellow curls, and laid him lifeless
upon the plain. So Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack
freed the people of Holy Russia from their fear of
Falcon the Hunter, the enemy of all mankind.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BURNING
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BURNING
ILYA OF MUROM rode Cloudfall across the open
steppe. For nigh three hundred years he had
ridden, and he wondered at the youthfulness of his
heart which constant danger had kept fresh and
young. " Ah, old age, old age ! Thou hast chased
and overtaken even Cloudfall in the open steppe,
and like a bleached raven hast alighted on my head
but not on my arm." Then with a youthful gesture
he flung out his sword arm, tightened the girth of
Cloudfall and gave the rein to the shaggy bay steed.
Away went Cloudfall like the wind, and Ilya as
he sat upon him was like the falcon clear. There
was no need of bridge or ferryman for this heroic
traveller, for good Cloudfall leapt over shining lake
and rushing river, quivering bog and reedy swamp.
And as they rode they came to a place where three
roads met, and there stood a burning white stone on
which was inscribed : ' He who rides to the right
shall gain great wealth ; he who rides to the left shall
gain a wife ; he who rides straight forward shall gain
his death." Then Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack
76 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
halted and stood still with his head bowed in an
attitude of the deepest thought.
" I am an old man," he said to himself, ' and
have all the wealth I need, for it wearies me to count
it. Why should an old man wish for a wife ? I
will take the straight road though Death should sit
athwart it." Then he added, lifting his head with
the light of unquenched youth still in his eyes, ' ' It
may be that Death and I shall come to grips in one
more great adventure."
Then the youthful Old Cossack rode onward for
leagues and leagues until at last he entered a gloomy
forest into which he advanced for some distance, and
then met a band of forty thousand robbers who cast
eighty thousand envious eyes (save one, for the chief
had lost an eye in a battle) upon the goodly propor-
tions and intelligent appearance of Cloudfall the
shaggy bay steed. " In all our lives," they said one
to another, ' we have never seen such a horse.
Halt then, good youth, halt, thou hero of Holy
Russia ! ' And they would have forced him to halt
but Ilya said :
" Ho, ye robber horde ! Why kill an old man
and rob him ? I have no money in my wallet save
five hundred roubles. The cross of gold upon my
breast is worth only five hundred to any one of
your company my cloak of sables about three
thousand, my cap and my sandals about five hundred
each, my bridle, set with precious stones, about a
thousand. My saddle, bordered with eagle feathers,
-I hunted that eagle over the blue sea on the way
THE BURNING WHITE STONE 77
to the palace of grey stone is priceless and therefore
of no value to any of your company. Between the
ears of Cloudfall and under his eyes are clear stones
of purest jacinth, but he wears these, not for youthful
vanity, but because they help him to see for thirty
miles on all sides as he bounds across the open steppe.
As for my faithful shaggy bay steed Cloudfall, he
is worth nothing at all, except to me. Here then is
my inventory. Value me I pray you for yourselves."
The robber leaders jeered as they replied, " Thou
art old and talkative, Cossack. Since we took to
roaming across the white world, we have never met
with such a fool. Why, thou art so foolish that thou
hast told us all the clear truth. Seize the old man,
But as the robbers advanced upon him, Ilya of
Murom drew a fiery dart from his quiver, and fixing
it to his terrible bow shot at a tree to his right hand
which was the grandmother of all the oaks. The
mighty trunk was shivered into fragments, and the
earth was ploughed up round about by the force of
that tremendous blow, at the sound of which all the
robbers fell flat upon the earth, where they lay for the
space of five hours before they recovered themselves.
And when they arose again to an erect posture the
leader said :
' Good youth, noble hero of Holy Russia !
Enter thou into comradeship with us. Take from
our goodly store whatever pleases you of golden
treasure, embroidered cloth, horses and cattle."
But Ilya laughed the jolly laugh of the adventurer
78 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
to whom goods and gear, however rich, are a trouble
and a burden. ' Ah, brothers, my brave foes,"
he said, " I have no wish to be troubled with guarding
treasure, feeding horses, and tending cows and sheep.
I must ride and ride ever onward across the open
steppe and leave the guarding of treasure to shop-
keepers and merchants who live in towns behind
bolts and bars."
Then Ilya of Murom turned Cloudfall in his
tracks, and came again to the burning white stone,
from which he erased the inscription and wrote in
its place :
/, Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, have ridden straight
forward and have not gained my death.
Once more the aged hero with the heart of youth
rode out into the open steppe, turning this time
to the left. He rode onward for three hundred
miles and then came to a smooth meadow as green
as an emerald stone, and upon this meadow stood a
wonder of wonders. It was too small to be called
a city and too large to be called a village. It was,
in truth, a beautiful palace of white stone with roofs
of shining gold and strange three-cornered towers.
Ilya drew rein before the golden gateway, where-
upon there came forth upon the green sward forty
beautiful maidens, who walked proudlybehind Princess
Zenira the All Fair. Ilya dismounted and bowed
low, whereupon the beautiful Princess took him by
his white hands, kissed him on the lips, and invited
him to a feast in the banquet-hall of the palace of
THE BURNING WHITE STONE 79
white stone. I have travelled far in Holy Russia,"
said Ilya of Murom, ' ' but I have never seen such a
fair palace or such beautiful ladies." The maidens
bowed their heads, like ears of corn before a gentle
breeze, and the Princess led the hero within the
When they came to the banquet-hall, Ilya bowed
to North, South, East, and West, and especially to
the Princess Zenira, who placed him at the table of
fair white oak in the big corner and brought him
food of the best with sweet mead to drink. " Do
not eat or drink of these things until you are satisfied,
good youth," she said gently, " for there is more to
come." But Ilya looked at her as she spoke, and
looked at her again, and for a third time he scanned
her face and found it beautiful with the beauty of
the newly-fallen snow on the wide steppe when the
moon rises ; that was the beauty of the Princess
Zenira. Then Ilya's eyes fell once more upon the
fair white oak of the table and he said, speaking as one
who knows his meaning, " I have ridden for three
hundred miles and my hunger and thirst are as
heroic as my steed." So he ate and drank his fill.
Then as his head seemed to droop upon his
breast, though in reality he was more wide awake
than ever, the Princess Zenira led him to a rich
warm chamber at one side of which stood a broad
bed of yew wood and ivory with pillows of the
" Here you will rest as on the lap of your mother,"
said the fair Princess, " but I advise you to lie near to
8o THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the brick wall which is warm from the stove beneath."
' Nay," said the hero, ' I will lie upon the outer
edge for I often rise in the night to see for myself
that Cloudfall is well stabled." Then without more
ado, he seized the fair Princess Zenira by the middle
and flung her upon the bed of yew wood against the
And behold the bed of yew with pillows of
softest down was false, for it turned on a pivot when
the weight was cast upon the side nearer to the brick
wall, and the fair Princess was hurled down into her
dungeon, forty fathoms deep. Then Ilya turned
and left the chamber, and coming out into the court-
yard said in the voice of him who must be obeyed :
" Give me the keys of gold which unlock the doors
of the dungeon and show me the way to the dark
vaults beneath this palace of white stone." So
they pointed out the way, and he found it choked
with yellow sand and barred with huge logs of
He had really no need of keys of gold, silver, iron,
or steel ; for in the strength of his heroic anger he
tore the locks asunder with his hands and forced back
the doors with his heels until they burst from
their frames. Then came forth from the dungeons
forty Tsars and Tsareviches, forty kings and princes,
with their eldest sons, together with Nikitich the
youth of supernatural wisdom, who could both read
and write, but whose wonderful learning had not
made him proof against the wiles of Princess Zenira
although her beauty was only that of the newly-
'It was clear that her fascination still worked upon the hearts of the
THE BURNING WHITE STONE 81
fallen snow upon the steppe illumined by the cold
rays of the rising moon.
There stood this great company, blinking their
eyes in the light and looking very foolish, and as
they hummed and ha'ed and wondered how to
explain themselves, the fair Princess Zenira, as
beautiful as ever, came round a corner of the dark
passage, and her moonlight beauty lit up the darkness
of the dungeon. In spite of all their experiences it
was clear that her fascination still worked upon the
hearts of the prisoners, and seeing this Ilya cried in
a voice which shook the vaults until they re-echoed
again and again, " Tsars, to your tsardoms ; kings,
to your kingdoms ; Nikitich, to my side ; and, being
delivered, say a prayer for Ilya of Murom the Old
In a few moments the whole company with the
exception of Nikitich was racing pell-mell across
the emerald meadow, and having dismissed the
youth of supernatural wisdom, Ilya advanced sternly
upon the fair Princess Zenira. He took her by her
lily-white hands and bound her to three Cossack
ponies fresh from the farthest steppe. Then he
drove them apart and turned his head that he might
not see the end of that white witch ; and he divided
her treasure among the prisoners, sending each man's
share to his kingdom, and gave the fair white palace
to the flames.
Once more Ilya returned to the burning white
stone, crossed out the old inscription and wrote yet
another which ran :
82 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
/, Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, have ridden to
the left and have not gained a wife
" I will go now," said Ilya, " upon the last road,
where wealth is to be won." So he rode again over
the open steppe, and came at length to a green meadow
where deep pits were dug, and then to a dark and
gloomy forest in which there was a mountain cave
rilled with fair red gold, white silver, and fine seed
pearls ; and above the entrance to the cave, in the
face of the smooth rock, were carved the words,
" This treasure will fall to Ilya of Murom."
For seven days Ilya sat wondering what he should
do to dispose of the treasure. Then he arose and
went to the nearest town, where he hired builders
and carpenters, architects and workers in metal.
These men he set to work to build a fair cathedral
on the place where the gloomy forest had stood, and
when the glorious building was completed, he
instituted church singing and the sound of bells,
for in these things his soul delighted. When this
work had been finished and it occupied a fair
space of time Ilya returned to Kiev city, where the
courteous Prince Vladimir asked him where he had
Sitting down in the great corner near the stove,
the old man smiled gently, stretched his feet to the
blaze, and told the Prince the Adventure of the
Three Roads and of the Burning White Stone.
Then he yawned and went to bed in the peace of
HOW QUIET DUNAI HAD BROUGHT THE
PRINCESS APRAXIA TO KIEV
HOW QUIET DUNAI HAD BROUGHT THE
PRINCESS APRAXIA TO KIEV
THE tale of the wedding of Vladimir and the Princess
Apraxia was one which was often told after a banquet ;
and here it is :
Quiet Dunai was a great traveller, and one who
loved to move without turbulence, leisurely and at
his chosen ease. From land to land he wandered,
both seeing and observing, across the green and
open steppe in summer, but resting in the winter
within whatever palace of fair white stone he could
find a seat in the great corner and hearers who
would listen quietly to his traveller's tales.
At last he came to the kingdom of Lithuania,
where in the palace of the monarch he served for
three years as equerry with the care of the King's
horses and chargers ; for three more years he served
as Grand Steward with the oversight of the great
banquets with which the King honoured his nobles ;
for three more years he served as Groom of the
Chambers, and knew all the King's mind. And
during all these years he loved, at times somewhat
turbulently but yet on the whole quietly and devotedly
86 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
and faithfully and hopefully, the Princess Nastasya,
who in her turn favoured him silently and kept him
ever in her golden heart.
Now, on a certain day, the King of Lithuania
made a great feast and invited all his nobles to share
his hospitality. Quiet Dunai was very busy with the
preparations for the banquet, and on one of his many
visits to the King's apartments he happened to meet,
quite by accident, the Princess Nastasya. She looked
at him quietly and said :
' Go not to this banquet, quiet Dunai, for there
will be much eating and more drinking, and when
the boasting time comes near the end of the feast
you will brag of me."
' I know you will, Dunai," she added gently, and
Dunai looked at her quietly, feeling in his heart that
what she said could not be denied. Then they
will set upon you, Dunai, and you will lose your
head." Hereupon the Princess sighed gently and
looked down at the point of her golden slipper.
But Dunai, quiet as he was, had no mind to avoid
the feast, and declared his intention of being present ;
and the Princess turned and left him humming a
light song which seemed to have lost its merriment.
The feast was held, and when the guests had
eaten well and drunk better, then came the boasting
time, when quiet Dunai took his turn with the rest,
telling of his far wanderings, of the King's favour
and rewards, and of how the beautiful young Princess
Nastasya kept him ever in her golden heart. Then
the King grew very angry and cried out :
'Then the Princess run with her feet all bare out into the open
QUIET DUNAI 87
' Ho, there, ye headsmen, seize quiet Dunai by
his white hands, lead him out upon the open steppe
and chop off his turbulent head."
Without delay the pitiless headsmen bore down
upon Dunai and seized him by the shoulders.
" I go without help from you," he said quietly as
he shook them off ; " but as you lead me to the open
steppe see that we pass by the window of the Princess
Nastasya, who keeps me ever in her golden heart."
Then there happened a great wonder, and yet it
was no wonder at all. Before they had reached the
window of the Princess, Dunai said quietly, " Sleepest
thou, Nastasya ? Wakest thou not ? Lo, they are
leading Dunai to the open steppe to cut off his
Now the Princess lay sleeping when the whisper
rustled through her casement and woke her very
gently. Without delay she rose from her couch and
put on a loose robe of fair white linen. But she had
no time to fasten round it a girdle of gold, or to bind
up her flowing tresses, before she heard the voice of
Dunai once more, this time in tones of thunder,
' Sleepest thou, Nastasya ? Wakest thou not ? Lo,
they are leading Dunai to the open steppe to cut off
his loving head."
Then the Princess ran with her feet all bare out
into the open corridor, from which she could see the
prisoner and his guards, and stretching out her little
hands in piteous entreaty she cried :
' Ho, there, ye pitiless headsmen ! Take what
treasure you desire, but when you come to the open
THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
steppe set free quiet Dunai that he may wander once
again. And take back to the King the head of some
prisoner who has paid for his crimes with his death-
some one, any one except quiet Dunai."
Then the headsmen made signs to the Princess
that they would obey her, and the group passed out
to the open steppe where quiet Dunai was set free
and wandered on as he had done before he became
the officer of the King of Lithuania and loved the
Princess Nastasya. On he went, quietly watching
until he came to Kiev town, where he went to the inn
and entered into conversation with men of the place.
From these fellows he learnt that Prince Vladimir
was holding a great feast, and that his guests were
eating the white swan and drinking green wine of
As it happened, just at that moment the boasting
time had come. One man bragged of his horse,
another of his valour, a third of his sharp sword,
a fourth of his young wife, and a wise man who had
not drunk so well, of the goodness of his father and
the tenderness of his mother. In time, Prince
Vladimir grew weary of their boasting and stood up
among them, whereupon all their voices were hushed.
" Boast not, my brothers," he said with a show
of impatience. " Glory not in your horses, your
great deeds, your golden treasures. Have not I red
gold, white silver, and fine seed pearls in great abund-
ance ? But in one matter most of you outstrip me.
For ye have wives loving and beautiful, while I, your
Prince, am still unwed. Is there no Princess who is
QUIET DUNAI 89
my mate, and who will wed with me ? She must be
like a goddess in stature and like a goddess in the
perfection of her beauty, of delicate grace, and
stately of gait like the peacock. There must be a
faint flush in her face like unto the white hare, while
her eyes must be falcon clear and full of light.
Yellow hair must she have, with eyebrows of blackest
sable, and her speech must be entrancing. Then,
having found her, I shall have one beside me with
whom I may think my deepest thoughts and take
counsel, and to whom ye mighty princes, heroes, and
all Kiev may pay homage as your queen."
Then all the guests grew silent, and for a long
time no man spoke a word ; and as often as the eye
of Vladimir sought out one man, he took pains to
hide himself behind some one bigger. At length
there stood up in his place the bold, brave youth
Nikitich, who could both read and write, and said :
* My lord and master, Prince Vladimir, have I
leave to speak what is in my mind without fear of
speedy death or distant exile or heavy chastisement ? '
And Vladimir said, " Say on, Nikitich, and God
may forgive you if you speak unwisely."
Then the bold youth said fearlessly :
' I know a fitting mate for you who is all that
you have said, a beauty with whom none can com-
pare in all the white world. For myself, I have not
seen her, but of her loveliness I have often heard
from my comrade, quiet Dunai, who sitteth now
in the inn and hath no garments to fit him out for
appearance at this honourable feast."
90 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Take my golden keys/' said Vladimir, ' and
open my wardrobes. Choose from thence all that
quiet Dunai requires of raiment, and bring him to
Then Nikitich went out and did all that the
Prince had ordered ; and as he passed through the
streets with quiet Dunai by his side, the maidens
and the wives, young and old, put forth their heads
from the windows, asking each other across the
narrow way, ' Whence come such goodly youths as
these ? "
As soon as they had come into the banquet hall,
Dunai bowed to North, South, East, and West, and
especially to Prince Vladimir, and they gave him a
seat in the great corner by the fair white oaken table.
Then they set food and wine before him, and when
he had refreshed himself, Prince Vladimir poured
out green wine into a crystal goblet from the East
with a rim of thick gold and brought it to quiet
Dunai, who took the cup in one hand and quaffed
its contents at a breath. Then he stood up and said
' I know a bride fit even to mate with you,
Prince Vladimir, the Fair Sun of Kiev. The King
of Lithuania has two fair daughters. The eldest,
the Princess Nastasya, is no mate for you, for she
loves best to ride abroad in the open plain seeking
adventures, but her sister, the Princess Apraxia, sits
at home in a fair chamber of her palace embroidering
a kerchief of white linen with threads of ruddy
gold. She sits behind thrice nine locks of cunning
QUIET DUNAI 91
workmanship and thrice nine guards in a lofty castle,
and the ruddy sun may not scorch her nor the fine
and frequent rains drop upon her, nor the stormy
winds disarrange her braided locks of yellow gold,
while no venturesome breeze may mar the delicate
flush in her face like unto the white hare. I have
not yet seen her, but I know of her peerless beauty
and speak of what I know."
' Hear ye this, my Russian heroes ! ' cried
Prince Vladimir, while his eyes shone brightly and
his face was wreathed in smiles. " Whom shall we
send as our royal envoy to far-off Lithuania ? '
Then one of the heroes spoke out :
' Prince Vladimir," he said, " we have none of
us been in strange lands with strange customs, nor
talked in strange speech with strange people. In a
matter where more than strength and goodwill is
needed, namely, the wooing of a fair Princess, I
doubt that none of your heroes would serve you well.
Send quiet Dunai. He has been ambassador to
royal courts and has received ambassadors also.
He can talk in strange speech as well as fight ; let
him woo the fair Princess Apraxia for you, and when
she comes here, as she surely will, we will eat the
white swan and drink green wine in her honour, and
crack skulls, too, if she needs such heroic help."
The truth of these words could not be denied,
and as the hero who had spoken, suddenly realising
that he had made a wise speech, hid in confusion
behind his neighbour at the table, Prince Vladimir
rose to his feet and said :
92 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
' Go in my name, quiet Dimai, to the far-famed
Lithuanian kingdom and woo the Princess Apraxia
for me with all the skill at your command."
' I go at your bidding," said quiet Dunai, with a
bow, " but it is not fitting that I should go alone."
Take a great army with you, if you will," said
the Prince, " and if the King will not send his daughter
with his blessing take her with his curse."
' I need no army," said quiet Dunai, " nor yet
rich store of treasure to tempt the King to sell his
daughter. Send Nikitich with me. He is my be-
loved comrade, a man of good birth who knows how
to read and write, and therefore understands how to
deal with people. Give us only two shaggy colts,
fresh from the steppe, which have never borne saddle
or bridle, and prepare a parchment scroll setting
forth to the King that you desire the Princess Apraxia,
not for youthful vanity, but for helpfulness that you
may make her your wife, to whom all your thoughts
will be made known, and who will share in all your
These things were done in exact accordance with
the wishes of quiet Dunai, who then left the palace
in the company of Nikitich. In the courtyard they
found awaiting them two shaggy colts, fresh from
the steppe, which had never borne saddle or bridle.
Upon these they fitted plaited bridles of many-
coloured silks and saddle-cloths of silk, not for youth-
ful vanity but for ease to their steeds. Over these
they laid thick felts, and then their saddles of stout
leather secured by twelve girths with silver buckles,
QUIET DUNAI 93
while the buckles of the stirrups were of fine ruddy
Then they dressed themselves in silken robes and
Saracen caps, took up their maces of steel from
Damascus, their mighty bows, and their silken whips,
and, mounting their frisky chargers, rode quickly
through the narrow streets of Kiev city. Before long
they came to the outskirts and then out upon the
open plain, when they urged on their shaggy steeds,
spurring them gently and persuading them further
with their whips of braided silk. Past deep lakes
they rode and through dense forests, crashing through
the undergrowth where the hoof of horse had never
trodden, until they came at last, and after a long
journey, to the brave land of Lithuania and the royal
palace of its King.
Quiet Dunai asked no leave of guards, porters, or
gate-keepers, but flung the barriers wide and led the
horses into the spacious courtyard, where they dis-
mounted. Leaving Nikitich on guard over the
chargers, Dunai took the bridles in his left hand, and
in his right his club of elm- wood.
" Stand there, Nikitich," said quiet Dunai, " and
look steadfastly towards the hall of royal audience.
When I call, come ! '
Then quiet Dunai crossed the courtyard and went
into the hall of royal audience, where he found the
King sitting upon his throne, and said to him in a
quiet tone :
" Hail, little father, King of brave Lithuania ! "
" Hail, quiet Dunai ! " said the King. " Whither
94 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
do you wander ? Have you come to fight against
us or to serve us as before ? But before you answer,
eat your fill and drink all that you need/' Then he
set him in the great corner, and when he had refreshed
himself somewhat hastily, Dunai said :
' My errand is peaceful, little father. I come on
behalf of the Fair Sun, Vladimir of Kiev, to woo
your daughter the Princess Apraxia." Then he
laid the parchment scroll upon the table, and the
King spelled out a little of it, a little and no more,
but that was enough to make him tear in anger at
the black curls upon his forehead and stamp his feet
upon the floor of red brick.
" Stupid and dolt is Prince Vladimir of Kiev,
who sends as his envoy such a slave as you. Ho
there, my merciless jailors ! Seize quiet Dunai by
his white hands and by his flowing curls, and lead him
down to the deepest dungeon. Shut him in, bar
the door, heap up against it logs of wood and iron
gratings, and then over all pile up the yellow sand.
Feed him on frozen oats and let him drink cold spring
water until he returns to his senses."
Quiet Dunai hung his head for a moment, and
dropped his clear eyes to the floor of red brick.
Then he raised his white hand and smote the table
with his fist so that the wine was spilled, the dishes
rolled upon the floor, the tables tumbled down and
the pillars of the hall leaned this way and that, while
the roof groaned and creaked. The servants of the
King fled this way and the other, while their master
gathered up the skirts of his royal robe and ran at
QUIET DUNAI 95
great speed up the winding stairway to the top of his
lofty tower, never pausing even to take a deep breath
until he was safely hidden beneath a thick rug of
Then quiet Dunai took one light leap over the
King's golden chair, seized one of the stout attendants
by the heels, and using him as a club, began to slay
the rest. " This club is tough," he said quietly but
a little grimly to himself, as he went on with his
work. " He will not break. He is wiry and will
not tear." Then raising his voice he called through
the window, " Ho, there, Nikitich ! " and the young
man entered the hall, snatched up another attendant
by the heels, and began to assist quiet Dunai in the
first part of his strange wooing of the Princess
But by and by the two friends heard the voice
of the King through the window of the topmost
apartment of his lofty tower. * Ho, there, quiet little
Dunai ! ' he cried. ' Forget not my kindness to-
wards you of old. Let us sit again together, you in
the big corner, to discuss the wooing of Prince
Vladimir. Take my elder daughter the Princess
Nastasya, for I know little of her seeing that she loves
adventure on the open steppe, and I shall not miss
her so much."
" I will not," said quiet Dunai, and went on with
his work, Nikitich also ceasing not to assist him.
" Take, then, the Princess Apraxia," cried the King
in great haste, and the two friends paused to gather
breath. Then quiet Dunai went to the great castle
96 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
and began to knock off the thrice nine locks, and to
force open the doors. He entered the tower with
the golden roof and came to the apartment where
the Princess Apraxia was pacing to and fro clad in a
fine robe without a girdle, Her golden hair all un-
bound and her feet all bare.
' Hail, Princess," said the royal envoy, bowing
courteously, " and pardon my coming without
announcement. Will you wed with Prince Vladimir,
the Fair Sun of Kiev ? "
' For three years," said the Princess, " have I
longed and prayed that Vladimir might be my
husband/' Then quiet Dunai took her by the small
white hands, kissed her golden ring, and led her at
once into the courtyard where they met the King.
Take with the Princess," he said, " her royal
dowry," and he gave immediate orders for the
loading of thirty wagons with red gold, white silver,
and fine seed pearls. Then the Princess arrayed
herself, and coming forth again rode away with the
goodly youths over the smiling, far-reaching, green
and open plain ; and as they rode she" sang softly
to herself of love and freedom and a fair white throne.
When the dark night fell the two youths set up a
white linen pavilion, in which the Princess Apraxia
rested, while they lay down near the entrance with
their shaggy steeds at their feet, their sharp spears
at their heads, their stout swords at their right
hands and their daggers of steel at their left. Both
slept, for their steeds were their sentinels, and the
dark night passed by with nothing seen except the
QUIET DUNAI 97
stars, nothing heard except the rustle of the breeze
round the curtains of the fair white linen bower of
the Princess Apraxia.
While it was still early morning they arose, and
were setting out again upon their way, when, looking
back, they saw a Tatar horseman in pursuit of them,
his steed all bespattered with the mire of the plain.
When Dunai was aware of this, he sent Nikitich
forward to Kiev town with the Princess Apraxia,
but remained himself to meet the bold adventurer,
who surely had not heard how quiet Dunai had
wooed the Princess Apraxia for his royal master.
In the midst of the plain the combatants met,
and, without taking time to observe each other closely,
but each taking the other for an accursed Tatar, they
fell to resounding blows. In a few moments quiet
Dunai was unhorsed, but he sprang at once to his
nimble feet and fought his foe with mace and spear
and sword, until he laid him prone upon the broad
bosom of moist Mother Earth. Then quiet Dunai
drew his dagger :
Tell me now," he said, as he brushed the dew
of onset from his eyes with his left sleeve, ' the
name that you bear and the name of the accursed
horde from whence you come."
' If I sat on your white breast," said the stranger,
1 I would not ask your name and horde, but would
stab you to the heart." Then quiet Dunai raised
his dagger and would have pierced the heart of his
foe, but with his will, or without his will, his arm
stiffened at the shoulder and that blow never fell,
98 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
for now he saw in the prostrate figure before him the
form of a woman while the fallen headgear revealed
the parted, flowing hair and the low brow of the
Princess Nastasya who loved quiet Dunai and kept
him ever in her golden heart.
Without a word of speech, but with a heart full
of deep and tender reproach, quiet Dunai took
Nastasya by her lily-white hands, and raising her to
her nimble feet, looked at her until he knew of her
forgiveness and then kissed her sugar mouth. " Let
us go," he said quietly, ' to Kiev town and take
the golden crowns." Then he placed her upon his
good steed, took from her the mace of steel and the
sharp sword which she bore, and, mounting behind
her, rode onward to the city of Prince Vladimir.
' I came to seek my sister," said the Princess,
as if suddenly remembering the cause of her ride.
" You shall find her in Kiev town," said Dunai,
" and there she and Prince Vladimir will also take
the golden crowns."
Then Nastasya spoke no further, for she was too
contented for speech, and they rode ever onward
across the open steppe, the glorious far-reaching,
sun-lit, boundless plain.
Thus they came to Kiev town, and went at once
to the great church. In the outer porch they met
Prince Vladimir and the Princess Apraxia who had
also come thither to take the golden crowns. The
sisters greeted each other with love, and the company
went into the dim coolness of the great church and
up to the high altar where a priest awaited them.
QUIET DUNAI 99
And there Prince Vladimir was wedded to the
Princess Apraxia while the singing boys held the
golden crowns above their heads, and quiet Dunai
was wedded to the Princess Nastasya while the
singing boys held in turn the golden crowns above
their heads ; and when that was done the whole
company went to the palace of Prince Vladimir,
where such a feast was laid as had not been prepared
since the coming of the Prince to his royal city ;
and quiet Dunai sat in the great corner.
For three years they lived in mirth and joy, the
Princess Apraxia keeping to her palace, her fine
embroidery and her household and knowing all her
husband's thoughts ; the Princess Nastasya sharing
her husband's life of quiet wandering, both of them
being quite content in the summer with the life on
the boundless steppe and in winter returning to the
palace of white stone in fair Kiev city.
Then Prince Vladimir made another great feast,
and when it came to the boasting time quiet Dunai
bragged with the loudest :
" In all this royal city," he said, 'there is no
such hero as quiet Dunai. From the land of Lithu-
ania he carried away two white swans of glorious
plumage, one of whom he took for himself while he
gave away the other with ungrudging hand."
The Princess Nastasya looked at him, and a world
of wisdom was in her glance. Your boast is
emptiness, Dunai," she said. ' I have not dwelt
long in this city, but I have learnt much. There are
handsomer, braver, more courteous heroes in Kiev
ioo THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
town whom I could name. Neither in deeds nor
promise are these men lacking, and, apart from them,
even I, the wife of a boaster, have some skill with
the bow. Let us take a stout bow and set up a
sharp dagger on the open steppe a mile away, and
before the dagger a silver ring. Then let us shoot
through the ring of silver at the sharp dagger in such
a skilful way that the shaft may fall into two equal
parts against the dagger, into two parts exactly
equal both to the eye and to the discerning hand
which can tell weight from weight."
Thereupon quiet Dunai was very angry, but he
said steadily, " It is well, little Nastasya. Let us go
to the open steppe, set up a sharp dagger a mile
away with a silver ring before it, and shoot our
fiery darts as you have said." So they went out to
put the matter to the trial. Nastasya shot a flaming
arrow, which passed through the ring as through
the open air, fell upon the sharp blade and was cut
into two parts exactly equal both to the eye and to
the discerning hand. Then quiet Dunai shot a
flaming arrow, and it sped too far ; he shot a second,
and it sped not far enough ; he shot a third, which
came not near the silver ring and was not seen again.
Then he shot a fourth into the breast of Nastasya,
and she fell upon the open plain where she had loved
And still in the moment of her death she loved
quiet Dunai and kept him ever in her golden heart.
"Forgive, my lord, my foolish woman's words," she
said, " and tend with care the son of mine whom I
QUIET DUNAI 101
leave in Kiev town, for such a boy is not to be found
in all the world. His little legs are silver to the knee,
his arms to the elbow are of purest gold ; upon his
open forehead glows the fair round sun, upon his
golden head glitter countless stars, and at the back
of his head the bright moon shineth." So she spoke
in her death-pain, and the heart of quiet Dunai
burned within his breast for deep grief and scorching
remorse and torturing pity. Where the white
swan fell," he said, " there shall fall the falcon
Then he placed the handle of his sword in the
bosom of moist Mother Earth and fell with his
white breast upon the sharp point. And from that
spot far away across the boundless plain flowed two
gently wandering streams. The greater was the
Dnieper, deep and full and quiet, yet resistless in
its noiseless might, which ran past Kiev town ; the
lesser was the Dwina, which flowed to the kingdom
of Lithuania. And where the two streams met, two
cypress trees sprang up, and their branches twined
lovingly together, whispering when the breeze arose
in tender tones of love and pity of the steadfastness
of the Princess Nastasya, who loved quiet Dunai and
kept him ever in her golden heart.
THE STORY OF NIKITICH AND MARINA
THE STORY OF NIKITICH AND MARINA
THE day of the birth of Nikitich had been a day of
trouble for wide distances across the open steppe.
For upon that wonderful day a great storm seemed
to arise, and yet not a great storm but a strange
commotion, unseen, unheard, but keenly felt. From
far across the open plain came a herd of beasts,
wild beasts and fearsome dragons large and small,
and sought the shallow valley of the Dnieper river.
At their head ran the Skiper-beast, with woolly
fleece, twisted horn, and hoofs which struck sparks
from the pebbles of flint. Then the waters of the
Dnieper were strangely troubled, the banks of the
river quaked and fell, and trees which once had waved
upright now spanned the stream. Such had been
the day of the birth of Nikitich.
Now when he grew up to youthful manhood,
Nikitich sought service in the royal household of
Prince Vladimir, and though he was of supernatural
wisdom, having learnt to read and write, he served
with the rest, for three years in the palace, for three
years in the royal gardens, and for three years as
keeper of the gate ; but for all his faithful service
io6 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
he won no praise of Vladimir and no reward except
a horse of the finest mettle, and he was kept always
within the confines of the royal palace. But at a
certain princely banquet Nikitich rose to his feet in
his place at one end of the oaken board, and said :
' Prince Vladimir, Fair Sun of royal Kiev, I
have served thee long and faithfully, but always
within the confines of the royal palace. Give me
leave to wander farther, and first of all through the
narrow lanes of Kiev town."
" Young nestling," said Prince Vladimir, " fly
not from the nest. Young colt of the open steppe,
gallop not away." But the heroes of Holy Russia
who sat at the board of Prince Vladimir had pity
upon the young man and they said, ' Go, Nikitich,
and ask your mother." Then Vladimir laughed and
gave the young man leave.
And the counsel of the mother of Nikitich ran
" Walk at will through all the streets of Kiev town
and roam through all the little by-ways. But avoid
a certain little lane where dwells the Princess Marina,
for she is a witch of the vilest who has brought to
their death many Tsars and Tsareviches, Kings
and Crown Princes, nobles and their heirs. If you
go near the Princess Marina you will lose your
But, sad to tell, the counsel had this effect upon
the young man, that he longed most of all to go
to the certain little lane where dwelt the Princess
NIKITICH AND MARINA 107
On the next day he rose very early and washed
himself very white in clear water from the spring.
Then he took his stout bow in his hand and slung
his quiver of gleaming arrows upon his back. He
wandered on through the streets and narrow lanes
and came at length to a certain little lane where he
found the palace of the Princess Marina. It was finely
built and richly adorned, while in the window of one
apartment sat a mated pair of dark-blue doves cooing
lovingly with yellow bill to yellow bill and wing
enfolding wing. Then Nikitich fitted a flaming
arrow to his stout bow and shot at the cooing doves,
but as the shaft was leaving the string his left foot
slipped and his right hand shook so that the arrow
missed the loving birds, went singing through the
lattice-window and slew the favourite of the Princess
Marina who was known as the Son of the Dragon
and was known for nothing good.
" If I go into the palace," said Nikitich to him-
self, " I shall lose my head. If I do not go, I shall
lose my arrow." So he called to his page, who
always walked or stood three paces behind him, and
sent him into the palace to seek for the arrow.
" Thou witch and sorceress," said the bold page
to the Princess, " return to us our burning arrow."
" Nay," said Marina, " let him who sent it come
to ask for it." And when this was told to Nikitich
he ran quickly into the courtyard of the palace and
from thence to the apartment of the Princess Marina
and took the shaft from the body of the Son of the
Dragon. Marina lay upon a couch which was
io8 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
covered with a broad mantle of marten skins and
fondled a fiery dragon with her right hand, while
she played with two poisonous serpents with her
left. As soon as Nikitich entered the room she
sprang to her nimble feet and stretched out her lily-
white hands to him :
" Sweet Nikitich," she said looking at him with
honey eyes and sugar lips, " stay with me always and
I will teach you to calm the fiery dragon and charm
the poisonous serpent. You shall rest all day and
no foe, however powerful, will be able to harm
" Sweet Marina," answered the young man, who
was really in a very great hurry, " I will not. I have
no desire to calm the fiery dragon and charm the
poisonous serpent but to fight and kill them. Nor
would rest without labour have any charms for me.
Besides I know your guile, for you have brought
nine- brave Russian heroes to their end and now
are minded to put an end to me." Then he turned
abruptly from the apartment in spite of all the sweet
glances of Marina, who was really very lovely, and
went home again to his mother with his fiery dart
in his hand.
As soon as he was gone, Marina seized her dagger,
and from the clay floor of the apartment she hacked
out the footprints of Nikitich. Then she painted
the pieces of earth with many devices in various
colours and said her verses over them as she placed
them in an oven to bake :
" Burn ye footsteps of Nikitich, burn in this oven y
' Marina lay upon a couch
right hand '
and fondled a fiery
NIKITICH AND MARINA 109
burn, burn ; and as his footsteps burn may his heart
burn to return to me"
Now as the witch spoke these words Nikitich
felt a strange longing and uneasiness fall upon his
spirit. He sat down at night by the fair white oaken
table but he could eat no food ; when he went to
rest he could not sleep but lay tossing about and
waiting with impatience for the coming of the white
dawn. At the first bell for prayers he rose, dressed
himself, went first to the cathedral service, and then
took his way to a certain little lane in Kiev town
where lived the Princess Marina.
He entered the apartment of the Princess slowly
and with downcast eyes ; but she turned her
white shoulders upon him and did not reply to his
* Ah, sweet Marina," said the enchanted youth,
' I have come to stay with you always, for since
yesterday I have had no peace of mind apart from
" I asked you yesterday to stay with me, Nikitich,"
said the enchantress, " and you would not. So now
you are in my power. If I wish, I can turn you into
a raven, a magpie, a pig, or a heroic ox with golden
horns, silver hoofs, and a coat as sleek as velvet, or
even into a loathsome frog. And if I change you
into a frog no power on earth or in the sky or in the
sea, or in the underworld can change you again so
that your spiteful mother will know you."
Then by a slight movement of her lily - white
hand she turned the young man into a heroic ox
no THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
with golden horns, silver hoofs, and a coat as sleek as
velvet. And she drove him out into the open steppe
to drink swamp water and to eat marsh grass and
to be lord over the nine brown oxen which had once
been Russian heroes, strong and mighty. Now as
he roamed about the plain not far away from the
dwellings of Kiev, he saw a flock of geese which
belonged to his aunt ; and wickedness entered into
his heart, so that he trampled the whole gabbling
flock to death down to the very last gosling. Then
the goose-girls went to their mistress and with much
shaking of dark locks and heaving of white shoulders
they told their tale.
As soon as they had finished their story the
swan-keepers came with a similar tale, and then the
shepherds, and after these the herdsmen. Not a
living creature of all the flocks and herds had the
golden-horned monster spared.
" I know," said the aunt of Nikitich, " whence
comes this fierce beast. It is my well -beloved
Nikitich whom the vile witch Marina has changed
by her sorcery." Even as she spoke the horse-
keepers came to tell how the animal had driven the
steeds before him so that all had been lost far over
the open steppe, dispersed and driven away many
miles from Kiev city. Then the aunt of Nikitich
rose in white anger, and by means of a secret charm
she knew she changed herself into a chattering
magpie and flew away to the palace of Marina, where
she perched herself upon the sill of the lattice-window
and began to scold with all her might and to say :
NIKITICH AND MARINA in
" Wicked Marina, the ugly ! Why have you
turned my nephew Nikitich into a golden-horned
heroic ox, and set him free to roam across the open
steppe ? Take off your charm from my nephew or
I will turn you into a long-tailed dog to be chased
through the lanes of Kiev by the children, or into a
chattering magpie full of guile and spleen."
Now at the game of changes no one could excel
Marina, and when she heard the threat of the aunt of
Nikitich she changed herself into a grey swallow
and flew over the head of the chattering magpie far
away across the open steppe. After a long flight
she came to the golden-horned heroic ox, and alight-
ing upon his head said in his ear :
' Promise me now, Nikitich, promise me with a
great oath that you will take the golden crowns
with me, and I will turn you back into your own
shape again. Swear now, for you have roamed the
wild steppe and must needs be weary, and have
wandered far by the bubbling marshes and must
needs be tired."
" Ah, sweet Marina," said Nikitich, glancing
upward with a piteous look, u only deliver me from
the form of this heroic beast and I will take the
golden crowns with you. I will marry you, Marina,
and will teach you the little lessons which a wise
husband imparts to an obedient wife for her
Then Marina believed him and turned him into a
goodly youth as he had been when he first entered
her apartment in search of his fiery dart ; and she
ii2 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
changed herself into a lovely bride, but she could
not change the emerald hue of her eyes.
: Now I will wed you, Marina," said the wise
Nikitich. ' Round this bush we go, three times
round this willow bush, and then you may call
Nikitich your husband if you will." So round the
bush they went, hand in hand, three times round
the willow bush, while the eyes of the beautiful
bride gleamed greener than ever before.
So the bride and bridegroom came, side by side,
to the palace of Marina, where Nikitich called to
one of the servants :
' Ho, there, bring me a cup of green wine, and a
sword of damascened steel, sharp and bright."
At these words the witch bride put forth her
spells again and turned her bridegroom into a little
ermine and began to frighten him. Then she turned
him into a falcon, but by her witchcraft she was
able to prevent him from flying anywhere except
round and round her head.
" I cannot fly like the falcon clear," said Nikitich,
I can only flap my wings up and down. Give me,
I beg of you, a cup of green wine to drink."
Then as if to delight her own eyes and tease him
still further, the witch bride turned him once more
into a goodly young man who shouted out again :
' Ho, there, bring me a cup of green wine and a
sword of damascened steel, sharp and bright."
Once more Marina raised her lily-white hands
and began to perform her enchantments. But before
she could change her bridegroom again the servant
NIKITICH AND MARINA 113
stood at his side with the cup of wine in one hand
and the sword in the other. Nikitich set aside the
wine and taking the sword in his hands cut off the
head of Marina with one sharp stroke.
In the morning, as the young man went to his
bath, a great company of princes and nobles met him
in the passage :
" Hail, Nikitich," they cried courteously. " How
is it with your bride ? '
" Hail, princes and nobles, heroes and courtiers
of Vladimir," said the young man with a jolly laugh.
' Last night I was wedded and no longer alone.
This morning I am alone and no longer wedded, for
I have cut off the head of my troublesome bride,
who had brought to their death many heroes and
princes of Holy Russia."
Then he went to his bath, and returning to the
court of Vladimir was given a seat in the great
corner while he told his wonderful adventure.
There is no need," said the Prince, " to cross the
boundless plain for strange happenings, for to the
adventurous the adventure may come in a narrow
But in spite of the words of his Prince, Nikitich
now longed to roam the open plain to seek fresh
adventures. So he set out on the very next day
and wandered on and on until he came to a wide-
spreading oak on which a pied raven, half of whose
wings were white, sat croaking, croaking, croaking.
So harsh was its voice that Nikitich strung his bow,
fitted a flaming arrow to the cord and prepared to
ii4 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
shoot the croaking bird. But as he did so the raven
put its head on one side and spoke to him in the speech
of Holy Russia.
: Hail now, little Nikitich, the adventurer. Do
not kill me and I will make known to you all kinds of
secrets. Do not the little ones of the lanes and
streets say to one another, ' There is no wisdom in
killing an old man, and he who shoots a raven makes
no broth.' Now that I see your bow unstrung I
will tell you something worth knowing in return for
your forbearance. By the lofty mountain across the
steppe there are three wonders, even three marvellous
damsels. The first is a lily for whiteness, the second
is a rose for redness, and the third is a violet for
darkness. More beautiful are they than the spring
flowers on the steppe. How is this for an adventure
on a fine morning for Nikitich the slayer of dragon
brides ? "
Now Nikitich had succeeded so well in his first
adventure that he was burning to try a second. So
he lowered his bow and reflected a little before he
spoke. Then he said :
" What you have quoted of the children's wisdom
must be true and I will try the adventure. It is
better to go to the lofty mountain and see with my
own eyes the lily, the rose, and the violet, those three
marvels of beauty, than that I should prove my
valour by shooting a raven." Then the pied bird
flew away, croaking, croaking, croaking.
Nikitich turned his horse and rode, quickly, very
quickly, very, very quickly, and with heroic speed,
NIKITICH AND MARINA 115
towards the lofty mountain far away across the open
steppe, and at the foot of this mountain he found a
pavilion of fair white linen embroidered with gold.
This is a fitting dwelling for three marvellous
damsels," said the young man to himself, " the first
a lily for whiteness, the second a rose for redness,
and the third a violet for darkness. But it seems to
me that either they are not at home or they have
locked up their beauty very securely ; ' for the
entrance to the pavilion was secured by a stout bar
on which was a lock of damascened steel. The
young man alighted, spread fine wheat for his
horse near the entrance of the pavilion, planted his
spear in the bosom of moist Mother Earth, and went
forward to look more closely at the lock, upon which
he found this inscription :
" Whoso enters this pavilion shall not come thence
This was, of course, a direct invitation to an
adventurous youth, and with one blow of his fist
Nikitich struck the lock from its place and it fell to
the earth at his feet. Then he removed the beam
and pushed his way into the pavilion, where he saw
tables set with food of the richest and wine of the
greenest. He looked round warily, his hand upon
his sword, and even searched beneath the tables, but
found neither hero nor damsels in all the place.
So he sat down at one table and ate well and drank
too well, for as soon as he was satisfied he began to
throw food and wine about the floor. When he
n6 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
was weary of this foolish exercise, he lay down to
For a long time he slept, dreaming of lilies, roses,
and violets, and knew not that even as he slumbered
the owner of that fair pavilion was speeding across
the open steppe. This was the hero Alyosha of the
court of Prince Vladimir, who arrived breathless to
find a steed feeding quietly before his pavilion, and
a sleeper within who had eaten well and drunk too
well and then had thrown food and wine about the
Now at this sight Alyosha grew very angry, and
his turbulent heart boiled within him. His pointed
spear was in his hand, and in a moment his anger
suggested to him that he could easily punish Nikitich
for his fault. But he put aside the idea with disgust,
for he was a hero and a gentleman. ' I shall win
no honour," he said to himself, " if I kill a sleeping
man who is no better than a dead one." Then he
reflected for a few moments, smiled gently, went
out of the pavilion and mounted not his own horse
but the good steed of Nikitich.
Holding his spear reversed, he rode into the
pavilion and struck the sleeper on the breast with
the butt end of it. Nikitich sat up suddenly, sprang
to his nimble feet, from which he had cast his shoes
before falling asleep, and grasping his mace in his
right hand prepared to defend himself against all
comers. Then a stern fight began within the pavilion
to the sound of tumbling tables, breaking crockery
and crashing glass. All day they fought without
NIKITICH AND MARINA 117
ceasing even to snatch up a bite of food ; all night
the fight went on with never a draught of wine to
slake their thirst. For two more days and two more
nights the combat continued, and then there came
a clap of thunder loud enough to wake Svyatogor
from his sleep among the Holy Mountains.
Now Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack heard
that sound and he said to himself, ' ' Somewhere in
the white world Russian heroes are fighting one
another. That is not well, for their strength must
be kept for battle with accursed Tatars."
So he saddled his good steed Cloudfall, and those
who watched his preparations for his ride saw him
mount, but they did not see him as he rode, so quickly
sped the shaggy bay steed across the open steppe.
In a short space of time he came to the lofty mountain,
and entering the pavilion saw the two young men
fighting amidst the remnants of a feast. Then he
seized Nikitich by his right hand and Alyosha by
his left and shouted in a heroic voice, Why fight
against each other, ye heroes of Holy Russia ? '
Alyosha was the first to speak. ' Ah," he said,
" thou Old Cossack, Ilya of Murom, how could I
refrain from punishing Nikitich ? For I prepared
a banquet within my own pavilion and this fellow
unbarred the door, sat down by himself to eat well
and drink too well, and then scattered the rich food
and green wine about the floor ! ' As he spoke,
the voice of Alyosha rose higher and higher with
indignation until the last words were like the scream
of a peacock in the garden of the Princess Apraxia.
n8 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
You did well, Alyosha," said Ilya with a fatherly
smile about his lips, " for a man is no man who is
not able to defend his own. And as for you, Nikitich,
how does it stand with your case ? '
' I could do nothing in honour but fight," was
the reply. ' For the inscription on the lock denied life
to those who entered this pavilion. It was but an in-
vitation to an adventurer from the court of Vladimir."
You did well, Nikitich," said Ilya with a deep
laugh in his eyes, " to defend yourself against such
odds, for a hero is no hero who is not able to defend
his own." Then he paused and looked at both of
the combatants, who presented a sorry spectacle.
After that he looked round about the wrecked
pavilion which had been intended as a place of
entertainment for heroes and bold warrior maids.
* It will be well, Nikitich," he said quietly,
* if you stay to be invited to the next feast that is
laid in this pavilion, and well for you, Alyosha, if
you do not tempt brave men by forbidding them.
Come now, calm your heroic turbulent hearts and
swear brotherhood with exchange of crosses." Then
the two heroes swore eternal friendship with the
exchange of crosses, and they all set out for the
court of Vladimir, who when he saw them and heard
their story laughed in his beard.
" It is not wise, Nikitich," he said, " to expect to
win a bride in each day's adventure."
Then they went in to supper, and Ilya of Murom
sat in the great corner that night and it was he who
told the tale.
HOW THE COURT OF VLADIMIR RECEIVED
A VISITOR FROM INDIA THE GLORIOUS
. . . . VV - ,-Ssa^
HOW THE COURT OF VLADIMIR RECEIVED
A VISITOR FROM INDIA THE GLORIOUS
FROM far beyond the deep blue sea, from India the
Glorious, came Lord Diuk the son of Stephen.
Like a white hawk his ship skimmed lightly across
the heaving waters, and like a white ermine coursing
he rode across the boundless open plain. As he
rode jauntily onward his bow-case and his quiver
beat against his hips, and like a flaming arrow from
that same bow was the speed of his good steed,
Rough- Coat. His helmet and his armour were of
gleaming silver, his shirt of mail, close fitting, was
of ruddy gold woven in chains as fine as silk from
Samarcand. When he came to a river he asked for
no bridge or ford, for Rough-Coat leapt from shore
to shore at a single bound.
Now as Lord Diuk rode onward he hunted, and
the foxes, martens, eagles, geese, white swans and
downy ducks knew and told each other by their
cries that a practised hunter was abroad. When an
arrow sped from his bow a shaft of light seemed to
rend the heavens, and where the flaming darts fell to
earth a radiance streamed as from the pale cold moon
122 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
shining across the white world of the snowy steppe.
He shot three times a hundred arrows and three
times one, and though he found the three hundred
shafts he did not find the three ; and this appeared
to him to be a very great wonder.
" The three arrows which I have lost," he said
to himself, " are of priceless value. They were
made of the graceful reeds and were covered with
gold beaten finer than the parchment of the holy
monks, and set with precious stones so that in their
flight they shone like the rays of the sun at early
dawn. The feathers were those of the blue-grey
eagle, which is swifter in its flight than all the birds
of the air, and flies across the deep blue sea to visit
its eyrie on the tall burning white stone which flashes
for a thousand miles. Its feathers are hard to come
by, being more precious than satin or cut velvet, or
silk from Samarcand."
Thinking deeply and somewhat depressed at his
heavy loss, Diuk once more mounted Rough-Coat
and gave him the rein for home. As he sped onward
he overtook a company of one and thirty wandering
pilgrims, and reining in his horse demanded :
" Ho, there, you greybeards, are you thieves or
robbers or travellers, midnight prowlers or plunderers
of churches ? '
Then the psalm-singers replied :
Young Diuk, we are neither thieves, nor robbers,
prowlers nor plunderers of churches, but pilgrims
on the long journey from Kiev town to India the
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 123
" Is the journey long ? ' asked Diuk in a more
" We have indeed come a long way from Kiev
town," was the quiet answer. ' It is a journey of a
year on foot and then three months on the bosom
of the deep blue sea."
With a low reverence to the holy pilgrims, Diuk
rode to his home, which he reached in a short space
of time ; and on the next day after having been to
vespers he sought out his lady mother.
" Mother mine," he said, " must I stay always
at home engaged in childish pursuits while my
manhood calls me, calls me ever and ever more
loudly across the boundless plain ? I ought to ride
with head aloft and shoulders squared upon my
dapple bay steed Rough-Coat, and prove my manhood
by my fearless deeds. I have seen some fair cities,
but never have I seen Kiev the Great nor beheld
with my own eyes the beauty of the Princess Apraxia
whom all men praise. Give me leave, lady mother,
leave and your good blessing, and let me go to Kiev
town at once and now."
Then the mother's heart grew tender, and in her
eagerness to keep him by her side she magnified the
dangers of the way and thus, all unknowing, added
to his eagerness to go.
" Alas, my dear son," she said, " you have not
yet ridden far across the boundless plain nor heard
the roar of the wild beast and the fierce cry of the
accursed Tatar. Never will you return in safety
from the dangers of the open steppe. As for Kiev,
124 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the city of Vladimir, the people of that place are not
worthy to keep company with such as you. They
will look upon you as a purse to be picked, for they
are traders, sons of merchants, traffickers in goods
which your forefathers would win with sword and
mace and lance. I will not give you leave and blessing
to go to the Court of Vladimir, that ruler of shop-
Diuk's eyes had gleamed as his mother spoke of
the way in which his ancestors had won their wealth ;
and seeing this she tried another course.
' Besides," she went on quickly, " there are
three great barriers on the way to Kiev city. The
first is the barrier of the moving mountains, which
clash together and catch the unwary traveller in
their strong grip. The second is the barrier of the
ravenous birds, which will tear thee and thy good
steed to a thousand pieces. The third barrier is the
Mountain Dragon with twelve tails, each with a
sting in it. He will devour you if indeed you have
been fortunate enough to pass the clashing mountains
and the ravenous birds."
Each fresh terror which she described added to
the young man's eagerness to set out upon the
journey to Kiev town ; and having done reverence
to his weeping mother he went to the stable and
combed the coat of his faithful steed with a fine
comb of fishes' teeth, as well as the mane and tail,
which brushed the bosom of moist Mother Earth
as he passed on his flight and swept away all traces
of his hoofs. Then he saddled his good horse and
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 125
plaited bright jewels in his mane, standing off to
admire his handiwork, speaking meanwhile to the
animal in human speech ; and in human speech the
horse replied to him saying :
Tear not my sides with spurs, dear master ;
lash me not with your whip of silk ; tighten not the
bridle upon my faithful head ; but when I speed
cling to my mane and fear not when I leap from
mountain-top to mountain-top, when I clear a great
lake at a bound and a river at an easy jump. So
shall I be your friend and helper as was Cloudfall
to Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack."
Then Diuk prepared himself for the heroic
journey and went to say farewell to his lady mother,
who had wept till her eyes were bright again, and she
was ready to give both leave and blessing to her
bold and fearless son. She gave him also a warning.
" My dear son," she said, " when you come to Kiev
town and to the Court of Prince Vladimir and he
makes a banquet in your honour, boast not of your
wealth, or of me your mother." Then she kissed
him upon his honey mouth and he rode away with
happy heart. They saw him as he mounted Rough-
Coat but they did not see him as he rode, so swift was
his flight it was only a wreath of smoke, a pillar of
dust far off upon the boundless plain, and he was gone.
Now in due time he came to the first barrier of
the moving mountains, which, of course, could
not always be meeting, but must also part to meet
once more ; and watching for the time when they
parted, Rough- Coat darted between them so quickly
126 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
that they only caught a long hair from his flowing
tail. Then they came to the second barrier of the
ravenous birds, which swooped down upon them.
But Rough-Coat dipped his head and flung up his
hind feet so that they pecked only at his hoofs and
found no sweetness in that meal ; and with two
heroic leaps the brave steed was far beyond the
reach of the pecking birds. Last of all they came so
suddenly upon the barrier of the dragon that before
he could rouse himself and uncoil his stinging tails
one by one Rough-Coat was far beyond the reach
of their malice.
So the three terrible barriers were safely passed
without the loss of a single arrow, and Diuk rode
onward singing gaily of the great deeds of Svyatogor
and Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack. On he went
across the boundless open plain until he came to a
ring-barked oak on which sat a raven as black as
night, croaking, croaking, croaking. Diuk looked
up with impatience, for in his heart he feared an
omen more than clashing mountains, pecking birds,
or dragons with twelve stinging tails.
" Thou bird of evil," he cried, " I will scatter
thy sable feathers upon the open plain. I will spill
thy blood upon the ring-barked oak and give thee
over to croaking Death."
But the raven answered him in the speech of
Holy Russia, " Shed not my blood, young Lord
Diuk. Ride on across the open steppe and you will
find an adversary worthy of your stout bow and your
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 127
This speech filled the heart of the young hero
with gladness and with the hope of meeting an
adventure worthy of his ancestry. He rode on again
until he came upon the hoof-prints of a horse deeply
marked on the broad lap of moist Mother Earth,
so deeply that it was clear to all eyes that a hero of
mighty stature had recently passed that way. A few
more leaps of Rough -Coat, and Diuk came to a
pavilion of fair white linen embroidered with gold,
beside which strayed a shaggy charger eating fine
white Turkish wheat, which was heaped freely upon
the ground for his solace and entertainment.
When Diuk saw this his heart failed him and
he said to himself, " My courage leaves me and I
dare not enter that pavilion, for the hero who sits
therein will assuredly cut off my head. But I will
place Rough-Coat by the side of this charger and he
also shall stoop to the wheat. If the two horses eat
together in peace, I will take it as a sign that the
hero will do me no harm. But if the horses begin to
quarrel I shall know that it is time for me to return
to my lady mother." For a strange dread and fear
was upon the young man who had set out so boldly
but who now felt that he was within the circle of a
spell. And well he might, as we shall see.
The two chargers ate in peace, and Diuk, taking
heart again, entered the pavilion, bowing as he passed
the threshold to North, South, East, and West, and
especially to the owner who slept in one corner
with a terrible snore. Diuk came forward, and
looking closer knew at once that the sleeper was none
128 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
other than Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, wrapt
in one of the deep sleeps for which he was as famous
as for heroic deeds.
* Rouse ye , Ilya of Murom , ' ' cried Diuk ; " it is time
to go to royal Kiev town so as to be present at matins
on Easter morn." But Ilya slept on and snored and
stirred not. Again Diuk shouted, and again without
result ; but at his third shout the great warrior un-
closed his eyes in a manner which seemed to suggest
that he had been sleeping a hound's sleep and said :
' Ho, stranger, tell me your name and horde."
Then Diuk told him all the truth.
" Why, then," asked Ilya, " have you roused me
from my heroic sleep. Do you wish to go with me
out upon the open plain and see which of us shall
carry home the head of the other ? '
" Nay," said Diuk in great haste. " Why should
I fight with Ilya upon the open plain ? Death will
not come to you in battle. As there is one sun in
the daylight sky and one moon in the dark blue
heavens, so there is one Ilya of Murom in Holy
This speech was courteous enough and fitting
for the mouth of a young hero, and it pleased Ilya
mightily. He sprang at once to his nimble feet,
caught Diuk by his white hands, kissed him upon
his sugar lips, and swore with him eternal friendship,
making the solemn exchange of the cross. And
Diuk thought no more of home or of his lady mother
and her tears of loneliness.
Then the young hero and the old sat down in the
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 129
fair pavilion and ate and drank well but not too well ;
and when that memorable feast was ended, Ilya
said to Diuk :
" Go now alone upon your way to Kiev town,
and if any one there shall mock at you send me word
of it. But do not take your part when the boasting
time shall come."
With a heart full of hope and youthful expecta-
tion, Diuk rode on alone to Kiev town ; and when he
came there Rough-Coat leapt over the walls and flew
like a whirlwind to the palace of white stone. In the
courtyard Diuk leapt lightly to the ground, planted
the butt end of his spear in the soil, and flung his
bridle over the point. Then he looked up and saw
the Princess Apraxia looking out of the window and
said out loudly, The washerwoman, I suppose."
But he also bowed to her and asked, " Where is
Prince Vladimir, the Fair Sun of Kiev ? '
Thereupon the Princess Apraxia raised her head
with a look of scorn and passed into the shadow of
her apartment ; and it was the serving men in the
courtyard who answered the young man's question.
" Royal Vladimir," they said, "is on his way to the
Easter Mass." So Diuk mounted Rough-Coat once
again and rode off to the Cathedral. At the great
door he let his horse go free and entered the hall of
the ambassadors, but he did not bow to North, South,
East, and West and especially to any one, but gazed
about and scanned the faces of all the congregation.
When the service was over the courteous prince sent
a messenger to invite the strange youth to the palace,
1 3 o THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
and to this man Diuk replied lightly and by no means
" You have lately been favoured in these parts
with spring weather and my embroidered garments
are befouled with the mire of the plain." This he
said to show his magnificence, for he was splendidly
clad, as befitted his ancestry, and he knew it. So he
went to the banquet-hall, his steed following after
him ; and when he came within the place he bowed
to Prince Vladimir until his golden curls swept the
red brick floor. Then he stood upright and looked
about him, and having looked he shook his head
doubtfully and slightingly, for to his eyes accustomed
to the shining splendour of India the Glorious the
palace was mean beyond compare.
But he sat down with another shake of his head,
wondering upon what meal of frozen oats his fine
steed was being regaled and eyeing with scorn the
tables of white oak with their cloths patterned with
drawn- work of white thread, the handiwork of the
Princess Apraxia. He ate and drank well, however,
and when he showed more contentment, Vladimir
asked him courteously if it were a long journey from
India the Glorious to Kiev town.
"I set out at vespers on Holy Saturday," said
Diuk lightly, " and as you know, I have been at early
Mass in Kiev town this Easter day."
" And can you buy such steeds as yours cheaply
in India the Glorious ? ' asked Prince Vladimir
" Oh," said Diuk lightly still, " we have them at
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 131
a rouble, or two roubles, or six roubles, or even
seven, but Rough-Coat is priceless and not to be
purchased by the wealthiest trader." Then he
thrust his hands into his belt and stared about the
room, while a great hush fell upon the company.
But one of the heroes of Holy Russia rose slowly
to his feet and said heavily : " My lord, Prince
Vladimir, I have travelled far from Kiev town and
have been even to India the Glorious. And I know
without hearsay that by the straight way for heroic
travellers it is a journey of three months, but by
the round way for merchants it is a six months'
passage and more, indeed, unless on the way the
traveller springs from horse to horse, making no
To this speech courteous Prince Vladimir said
nothing in reply. The guests looked at each other
at a loss for the next event, and then feeling hungry
and thirsty again fell upon the banquet with heroic
strength. But Diuk sat at the board sad and silent
until Vladimir spoke to him.
" What ails your sad heart, bold youth ? ' he
asked gently. " Is the feast not to your taste ?
Or do you fear the boasting time which is surely
coming, when you shall have nothing of which you
may brag ? '
" Prince Vladimir," said Diuk, ' ' I am wealthier
far than you are. For my father left me great riches,
and I am used to fine white bread made from flour
of Turkish wheat."
Then courteous Prince Vladimir ordered his
i 3 2 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
servants to bring wine of the greenest and cakes of
wheaten flour. Diuk drank one half of the wine and
poured out the rest upon the table as if its value
were of no account, and some of the dogs licked the
drops and then lay down to sleep. He took off the top
crust of the fine wheaten cakes, ate the middle, and
flung the rest to the other dogs. And even yet
courteous Prince Vladimir blamed him not at all.
But another Russian hero sprang to his nimble
feet and cried, What boorish fellow is this ? He
is not really Lord Diuk from India the Glorious,
and for the first time to-day this fellow has drunk
green wine and eaten fine wheaten cakes. He is a
cow-herd, a fugitive serf from the castle of some
nobleman, who has done his master to death, dressed
himself in his embroidered garments, and stolen his
goodly steed. He is not of noble birth, for as he
walked I noticed that he looked not straight before
him but at the shoes upon his feet. He has come
here in order that you, Prince Vladimir, may feast
him honourably and then give him a rich gift in
accordance with your courteous custom."
" I desire no treasure which can be given to me
here," cried Diuk, ' for I have wealth untold at
home, and rich food and green wine in abundance.
I had heard tales of wonder concerning Kiev city
and came here to test the truth of what I had heard.
But it is not with you as it is with us in India the
And even yet Prince Vladimir parted not from
his courteous bearing but said gently :
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 133
" Why did you stare about the church at Mass
this Easter morning, instead of reverently bowing
your head in the company ? '
" I stared about, Prince Vladimir," said the young
man, " because I had heard tales of Kiev churches
and of the richness of their beauty. But in this
matter also, it is not with you as it is with us in India
the Glorious. Your churches are of wooden beams
with domes of timber, but ours are of stone with
roofs of beaten gold. Our meanest houses are finer
than your palaces of white stone. Your streets
are foul with mire, but ours are cleanly swept and
strewn with dry yellow sand.
The steps of your royal palace," went on Diuk,
1 are of black stone with railings of turned wood
fastened together with pegs of wood, and these
rough pegs, as I know to my annoyance, catch the
flowing robes of those who mount the steps. But
the steps of my palace in India the Glorious are of
smoothest ivory, and are spread with rugs of silk
from Samarcand, while the railings are of polished
ruddy gold on which no speck of dust is allowed to
" The floor of this banquet-hall is of rough, uneven
pine planks, and even these rough boards are a luxury
for the high table and the great corner, while the
rest of the hall is paved with coarse red brick. Your
walls and ceiling are unpainted, your tables are of
oak, and the cloths laid upon the most exalted are
patterned with drawn threads. But the floors of
our hall are of smooth ash timber in every part,
134 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
laid with great evenness, our walls and ceiling are
painted in the richest colours, while our tables are
of gold when they are not of ivory. Over my lady
mother's doorway are seventy pictures of holy saints
shining in glorious colours, while you have only
ten. From our churches to the palace are laid
pavements of hard smooth wood, spread with scarlet
cloth, but your pathways are so miry that they soil
the embroidered garments of a Prince."
Even yet Prince Vladimir remained courteous,
and all he said in reply was :
Why did you throw away some of my green
wine and a portion of my wheaten cakes ? '
' For a good reason," returned the young lord ;
' I could not eat your cakes, for the upper crust has
a flavour of pine wood, while the lower tastes of clay,
so that I knew at once that your ovens are built of
brick and your oven brooms are made of pine twigs.
But in our palace in India the Glorious the ovens
of my lady mother, which are under her own care,
are made of hard glazed tiles, while her oven brooms
are of silk dipped in honey dew. If a man eats one
of my mother's cakes he leaves no crumb behind,
and his whole desire is to eat more. Your wines
taste of damp and their flavour is foul. But my
mother's wine-cellars and their contents are the
wonder of India the Glorious. She has wines which
saw the dawn of history, and these are kept in casks
of silver with hoops of gold, which are hung on chains
of brass in bricked-out caves of forty fathoms' depth ;
and from these great caves run open pipes under-
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 135
ground to let in the fresh sweet air from the plain ;
and when the strong winds play about the open ends
of these pipes the silver casks swing to and fro and
make a murmur like that of snowy birds playing
upon the bosom of a peaceful lake. So we have
wine which cannot be described but must be tasted,
and if a man drinks one cup thereof he leaves no
drop behind, for there are no dregs in this liquor,
and his whole desire is to drink more.
' As for the embroidered garments of my lady
mother, the store in her presses and cupboards
cannot be valued. At all times the sewing women
are busy, stitching, stitching, stitching, and when
one group grows weary, another takes up the work.
My lady mother's under-robe is set with precious
stones, while the bodice is of cloth of gold ; her cap
is covered with fair seed pearls with jewels of
marvellous lustre and priceless value set in front,
and as for myself I wear a dress one day, but woe
unto my body-servant if I see it again. Your horses
are fed on frozen oats, but ours are regaled on fine
Turkish wheat. Beneath our palace are twelve deep
cellars filled with ruddy gold, white silver, and fine
seed pearls, and the contents of one cellar alone
would be sufficient to buy up the whole of Kiev
town and Chernigof as well."
At last Vladimir was a little moved. " I wish
that Churilo the Exquisite were here, for he would
know how to reply to your boasting." Even as he
spoke the white oaken doors of the banquet-hall
were flung open, and Churilo the Exquisite entered
136 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
with a graceful bow to North, South, East, and West,
and especially to Prince Vladimir, but not at all to
Diuk from India the Glorious. But that young
man was not thereby abashed.
" I have heard," he said, " even in far-away
India, the fame of Churilo's beauty, and truly Rumour
was no lying wench, for his face is like the rosebud
for redness and his neck like the driven snow for
whiteness. But Rumour lied when she praised his
courtesy ; for he has not learnt how to salute his
Then the face of Churilo grew redder than the
full-blown rose, and he cried in anger : " Braggart
and boaster, son of a slave. Let us lay a wager of
roubles, a wager of thirty thousand. For the space
of three years you and I shall live in Kiev, and upon
every single day of the year each shall wear fresh
clothes of the richest, and upon every single day
ride a horse of a different hue. And the wager
shall pass to him whom all men acclaim as the most
glorious. This can I do to uphold the honour of
the court of Prince Vladimir, the Fair Sun of Kiev."
' It is easy for you to wager such a sum and to
propose such a test," said Diuk somewhat wearily,
' for you live at home where your clothes presses
and your stables are full ; but I am far from home
and have only one travelling suit which is foul from
the mire of the dirty ways of Kiev town. But I
accept your wager."
Then the young lord sat down at the oaken
table and called for a parchment scroll on which he
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 137
wrote a letter and a list, a letter and a list for his
lady mother far away in India the Glorious. Having
rolled the scroll and sealed it he went out into the
court where Rough-Coat stood pawing the ground
impatiently, and placed it in one of the saddle-bags.
' Haste thee home," he said in the quivering ear of
the faithful steed, " home to India the Glorious, and
when you reach the palace of my lady mother neigh
loudly so that all may hear."
They saw the good steed while Diuk spoke in his
quivering ear, but they did not see him when he had
finished speaking there was only a wreath of smoke
on the open boundless plain, and he was gone. And
when the good steed came to the palace of his master
he neighed loudly, and the lady mother came out
upon the ivory steps holding the railing of ruddy
gold with her right hand and her own heart with her
left, for she saw the empty saddle of Rough-Coat,
and thought instantly of the worst. But the horse
neighed again with a joyful note, and when the grooms
felt in the saddle-bag they found the scroll which
they gave to their mistress on bended knee.
Holding herself proudly erect, she read the words
which Diuk had written, and the colour came back
to her face and the light of love to her eyes. " The
foolish boy has boasted as I warned him that he
must not do, for there is no need for one to boast
whose splendour is beyond doubt or rival. But I
must do what I can to redeem his pledged word
and it may be that his precious life is endangered."
Then she unbound her golden keys and taking with
138 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
her a band of sewing maidens, she unlocked the
doors of spacious wardrobes, and packed changes of
lawn and silken raiment sufficient for three years
and three days, and so as to afford three changes
for each day ; and though the number of garments
was so great the weight of the bales were not too
heavy a burden for Rough- Coat, so fine was the
texture of lawn and silk, each garment having stood
the test of being drawn through a finger ring before
it was embroidered with gold or silver or fine seed
When Rough-Coat was duly loaded, the lady
mother threw an old and much-worn garment over
all and said :
" Haste to my precious son, good Rough-Coat,
and warn him of your coming with a neigh."
Before long the young Lord Diuk and Churilo
the Exquisite began their strange contest, riding
about Kiev town in new garments and upon a fresh
horse every day. Churilo ordered great herds of
horses to be driven into Kiev from Chernigof, and
took much pains to select one of different hue every
morning ; but Diuk anointed Rough-Coat each
morning with dew and so changed the colour of its
coat. For three years this peaceful warfare lasted,
and then on Easter morning the two combatants
went to early Mass and stood in the porch of the
cathedral side by side, but not too close together.
The garments of Churilo the Exquisite were
slashed with ruddy burning gold and with white
gleaming silver. In place of buttons he had clasps
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 139
made in the likeness of handsome youths with loops
fashioned in the semblance of lovely maidens. So
high were the insteps of his slippers of green morocco
that swallows swooping to the earth might easily
pass under them, while their tips were as sharp as
the shoemaker's awl. His cap was of softest down
overshadowing his eyes in front and his white neck
behind. His over-mantle flung back in youthful
vanity was of sables of the richest gloss.
But his opponent stood by his side in the worn
garment which his lady mother had placed on the
back of Rough-Coat to protect the bales from the
weather ; only, beneath this beggar's robe shone
jewels on his footgear of value greater than that of
all Kiev, except for the gems upon the statues of the
Virgin and the Saints in the great cathedral.
Vladimir came and looked at the young men,
while Churilo fingered his clasps and loops as if to
draw attention to their exquisite fashioning ; but
Diuk looked straight ahead as if he saw right across
the open steppe to the palace of his lady mother in
India the Glorious.
Then the Prince spoke in tones of quiet judgment :
To our mind," he said, " the young Lord Diuk
from India the Glorious has forfeited his wager ;
for such inventions as these clasps and loops have
never been equalled in the eyes of men."
The value of the wager," cried Diuk, " is
nothing to me, but for my renown I am jealous
enough." Then he threw his worn garment aside
and stood forth in apparel so wondrous that all the
140 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
watchers fell to the earth, stunned with the sight of
its shining beauty. At the fore peak of his cap
shone the sun like ruddy gold ; at the back was the
moon with shining silver rays ; between the two
points shone a light as from pearls heaped up in the
Then he fingered the clasps in front of his
embroidered doublet which were fashioned in the
shape of singing birds, and at the touch of his caress-
ing fingers the birds began to sing. He pulled the
loops at the edges of his coat which were fashioned
in the shape of lions and dragons, and at the touch
of his caressing fingers they began to crawl and
leap and hiss and roar. When he had finished the
whole of the company, including Churilo the Ex-
quisite, lay prone upon the floor.
Vladimir was the first to rise, and he gasped out
with his hand to his forehead : " The wager and
the renown are yours, goodly youth. Now cover up
your birds and beasts with a garment to which my
people are more accustomed." And Diuk did so;
whereupon the people recovered from their stupefied
astonishment and began to praise Diuk for having
outdone Churilo the Exquisite in the ingenuity and
richness of his apparel. And the victor spent the
thirty thousand roubles on green wine for the
applauding crowds, which made them applaud him
still more loudly.
Now Churilo the Exquisite was a young man of
determination, and even this defeat did not quench
his spirit or his ingenuity. As soon as he had
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 141
recovered himself he approached Diuk once again
and said with great respect :
* My Lord Diuk, let us make another wager of
another kind. Let us prove whose horse can leap
the broad stream of Mother Dnieper, which measures
two miles across, and let our heads be the stake ;
the winner to cut off the head of the loser."
' I have only my travelling nag with me," said
Diuk, " but I accept the challenge." Then he went
to Rough-Coat in the stable and told the good horse
in what danger he stood of losing his head.
" That is well," said Rough-Coat, in the speech
of Holy Russia, " for not only will I leap over Mother
Dnieper, but I will carry you an even distance upon
the farther shore. I belong to a heroic family, and
my eldest brother is Cloudfall, the shaggy bay steed
ridden by Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack, while
my second brother bears Nikitich upon his adven-
tures, but my youngest brother is the steed of Churilo
Without loss of time Diuk saddled Rough-Coat
and rode far out across the open plain with Churilo
by his side, riding step by step but not too near.
Behind them flocked a great crowd of mighty heroes
of Holy Russia, as well as of the townsfolk of Kiev,
who had come to watch the manly contest, which
was much more to their taste than an exhibition of
clothing and decoration, however ingenious and
splendid they might be.
At last they came to the shore of broad Mother
Dnieper, and both the combatants stood for a moment
142 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
with their hands to their foreheads gazing out across
the deep water to discover a possible landing-place on
the farther bank. Then said Churilo the Exquisite :
1 Do thou leap first, Lord Diuk."
* Nay," answered the other, * do thou leap
first, and when we leap together in India, then will
I take the lead."
So Churilo put his horse to the stream. The
younger brother of Rough-Coat left the shore with
a courageous leap, but came down with a great
splash in mid-stream. Then Diuk put his horse to
the stream. The younger brother of Cloudfall left
the shore with a courageous leap, cleared the river
and an even space on the farther shore, and then
turning quickly leapt back again ; and as Rough-
Coat soared across the broad bosom of Mother
Dnieper, Diuk stooped and caught Churilo by his
On the banks of the stream the victor prepared
to cut off the head of the Exquisite ; but all the ladies,
young and not quite so young, lovely and not quite
so lovely, who had come out from Kiev, implored him
to spare the life of the young man. So Diuk merely
gave him a mighty kick and said :
" Go, Exquisite, to the women to whom you owe
your life, and stay with them ; for the men of Holy
Russia, to say naught of India the Glorious, have no
need of such as you."
Churilo the Exquisite had not yet parted with
the whole of his ingenuity, and he turned to Prince
' Diuk stooped and caught Clmrilo by his yellow curls'
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 143
" My Lord," he said, " if this young man is a
truth-teller, let us send talesmen who can compute
and count to India the Glorious, to make lists of all
his boasted possessions in treasure and goods and
herds and flocks."
" Whom shall we send ? " asked Prince Vladimir.
" Let Alyosha go," answered Churilo.
" Nay," said Diuk quickly, " Alyosha shall not
go ; for he hath greedy eyes and pilfering fingers, and
he will never, I assure you, come back again to Kiev
town." Then he sat down at the table of the banquet
hall, where the whole company was now gathered,
and wrote a message upon a parchment and fastened
it to one of his flaming arrows. To this he whispered
a word of direction, and then, fitting it to his bow,
he shot it forth from the open window across the
boundless plain. The winged messenger found Ilya
of Murom near the door of his pavilion where he
was resting with Nikitich, and as soon as he had read
the scroll the Old Cossack said to his wise companion :
" Go thou to Diuk in Kiev town and tell him
that, if Nikitich is not an army in himself, then Ilya
will come who is a host."
As soon as he saw Nikitich, Diuk's eyes shone
with welcoming pleasure. ' Ah, Nikitich," he said,
" you shall go as talesman with two others to India
the Glorious, to make lists of all my possessions in
treasure and goods and herds and flocks.
" Take parchment sufficient for three years and
three days," the young man went on, " and I promise
you in prophecy that you will do homage to my
144 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
servant-maids, mistaking each of them in turn for my
lady mother." Then he laughed gently as one who
wins a fight by putting aside with naked arm the
ponderous mace of his adversary.
The three talesmen set out at once, followed by
three waggons heaped with parchment ; and after
many wanderings and not a few adventures Nikitich
came to India the Glorious, on the verge of which
they climbed a lofty mountain, from whence they
beheld the land lying before them.
" Why, the country burns ! ' cried Nikitich in
fearful amazement. But when they drew nearer
they saw that it was only the glow of the golden roofs
and the temple domes, blended with the colour of
the yellow pathways spread with ruddy scarlet cloth.
In the midst they saw the white stone palace of Diuk,
which had three-and-thirty towers, whose rounded
roofs were covered with green copper which is more
precious than fine gold. Round about the gleaming
palace spread a lovely garden, delicious in the cool-
ness of its greenery, planted with all kinds of fruit
trees, and surrounded by a high railing of gold pillars,
set with knots of green copper and broken here and
there with gates of brass. About the pathways of
this pleasure - ground and in the verandahs of the
palace walked the loveliest of maidens, attended by
resplendent gallants, who played upon their musical
instruments and sang gay songs of love and valour.
The talesmen were so much struck with wonder
and amazement that it was a long time before they
could summon up their courage to enter the palace
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 145
garden, at whose gates no guards were set. At last
they did so, and came to the first of the three-and-
thirty towers, where they found an aged woman who
looked as if she was the mother of a goodly son.
Her dress was of silver thread mixed with a little
silk, and her bearing had so much dignity that
the visitors from Kiev found themselves bowing
down before her almost without knowing what they
" Hail to thee ! ' said Nikitich, " thou honour-
able mother of the young Lord Diuk."
" I am not my lord's mother," said the ancient
woman, " I am the keeper of his cows."
Then the talesmen were so much filled with
vexation and shame that they left the palace garden
and went out into the open plain, where they pitched
a tent and went to bed without saying a word to
On the next morning they came again and drew
near to the second of the three-and-thirty towers,
where they found an aged woman of comely face
clad in cloth of silver and gold.
" Hail to thee ! " said Nikitich brightly, " thou
honourable mother of the young Lord Diuk."
" I am not my lord's mother," said the aged
woman, " I am his washerwoman."
Swallowing their confusion the three talesmen
went on, wondering no longer that Diuk had mistaken
the Princess Apraxia for the washerwoman of Prince
Vladimir ; and they fared in the same manner
before the cook, the women of the bedchamber, the
146 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
baker of cakes, and the nurse, until the last took
pity upon their despair and told them that the lady
mother of their lord had gone to High Mass, and that
they would be able to distinguish her when she left
the church by three certain signs. Before her
would come a great army of men armed with shovels,
and then another army with brooms to make all
clean on the pathway, and then a third army laying
cloth of brilliant scarlet upon the tawny sand. Last
of all would come the mother of young Lord Diuk,
with a great company of lovely maidens round about
her. " And when you go into the town," the nurse
concluded, " you must not salute all the ancient
ladies in fine raiment like mine, for there are so many
of us thus arrayed that we pay little heed to it. And
if you do reverence to all of us your back will remain
bent like the bow of Ilya of Murom."
The talesmen went on their wondering way and
in due time met the mother of the young Lord Diuk,
preceded and attended as the nurse had told, and
dressed in garments of rich but quiet beauty. Before
her the three men bowed, and in pleasant tones she
asked why they had come to the city.
" Your son sent us as talesmen," was the answer,
" to make lists of all his possessions in treasure and
goods and herds and flocks."
" That is beyond your powers," said the lady ;
" but come first of all to partake of my hospitality,
and then I will show you whatever you choose to
So they went to the feast of rich food and richer
A VISITOR FROM INDIA 147
wine, and they ate of the fine wheaten cakes baked
by the mother of the young Lord Diuk, and left no
crumb behind. When they were well satisfied, the
lady mother showed them her son's horses ; and they
took parchment and tried to count up their value
in roubles, but the figures confused their eyes and
vexed them so that they gave up the task. Then she
showed them the shoes of her son ; and they took
parchment again and tried to tell the tale of their
value, but once more they gave up in despair. After
that she led them to the wine-cellars and to the
treasury of trappings for horses with the same result.
At last Nikitich said : ' ' Leave us here, seated before
this single saddle ornamented with all the jewels of
India, and let us compute the value of it alone/'
The lady graciously gave her consent ; and they
stayed three years over their task of computation,
but at the end of that time they had not finished one
tenth of the work.
Then they sent a message to Vladimir which ran :
" Sell Kiev for parchment and Chernigof for
ink, and then we shall perhaps be able to make a
beginning of computing the possessions of the young
When Vladimir had read this message he set out
with a great company for India the Glorious, and
Diuk went in his train ; and when they came to the
palace of the lady mother, they found that not one-
tenth of its splendour had been told to them.
As they stood there, three men came before them
whose forms were withered up like shavings ; and
THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
they looked long upon them and very earnestly
before they saw that these men were Nikitich and
his companions, who had shrunken from grief at the
greatness of their task and their inability to perform
it. But the young Lord Diuk consoled them and
feasted the company right well before they set out,
still in quiet wonder, on their way back to Kiev
When they were gone the lady mother turned to
her son and asked :
1 Did I not speak truth ? Was there aught in
Kiev or in the train of Vladimir to compare with
India the Glorious ? '
' Only one thing, lady mother," said Diuk, who
had seen enough of splendour, " a man and a hero,
Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack. And for his
renown I would barter all the wealth of India the
THE STORY OF KASYAN AND THE
THE STORY OF KASYAN AND THE
OF all the mighty heroes of Holy Russia one of the
mightiest was young Kasyan, the leader of a band of
forty. Brave he was, without equal, who had fought
against the accursed Tatars, and had won great
renown in battle against infidel hordes ; but he had
never taken the golden crowns nor loved any lady
except the Dream Maiden, whose image he kept ever
in his golden heart. For she had come to him in a
vision ; and whether she were a lily for whiteness, a
rose for redness, or a violet for darkness he could not
tell. He knew only that he would know her when
he met her among the warrior-maids or gentle hearth-
dwellers of Holy Russia, and that she would know
him also. But in all his wanderings and among all
the fair maidens of palace and plain, he had seen no
living lady who could compare with the Dream
Maiden; though many a Princess and noble-woman of
high descent had favoured him secretly or openly,
and had longed to be hailed as the beauty of his
On the broad and open plain he assembled his
152 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
band of forty, and they came to a halt in a green
meadow, dismounted from their nimble steeds, and
sat down in a ring to tell of adventure and to take
counsel as to the next journey to be made across the
boundless steppe. They told many tales of far
journeys and bold deeds, and boasted of death as
if it were a pretty plaything. Then when silence fell
upon them young Kasyan spoke :
" Greatly have ye sinned against the Most High,
ye mighty heroes of Holy Russia ; for though ye are
bold and fearless, ye have made a plaything of death
and shed much blood without cause. Will you agree,
one and all, to follow out my plan ? It would be
better that each of us should now go on a pilgrimage
to the holy city of Jerusalem, to pray in the Holy of
Holies, to visit the grave of the Risen Lord, and to
bathe in Jordan river, for in this way only shall we
win pardon for our sins. But before we go, it will
be well if we take a vow the keeping of which will
prove our heroic strength not to rob or steal, not
to look with love upon the face of any maiden, and
not to stain our hands with blood. And if any of
our band shall break his vow then shall his nimble
feet be hewn of! at the knee, and his white hands at
the elbow, his far-seeing eyes shall be darkened, and
his tongue cut out, and he shall be buried up to the
breast in moist Mother Earth."
The heroes agreed at once to the word of Kasyan,
and rising to their feet loosed their good steeds and
gave them their freedom. Then they dressed them-
selves in pilgrims' dress of the hue of the scarlet
KASYAN AND THE DREAM MAIDEN 153
poppy, and slung over their shoulders the beggars'
wallets of black velvet embroidered in thread of red
gold and set with fine seed pearls, while on their
heads they placed the pilgrims' caps. With curving
staves of walrus tusks in their hands, they set out
upon their way, travelling by day in the light of the
glorious sun, and at night in the radiance which came
from the jewels set thickly in their shoes of fine
leather. So they passed onward from town to
town and from city to city until they came to Kiev.
In the open plain near the city they met Prince
Vladimir hunting the martens, black sables, white
swans, grey geese, and downy ducks, and as the
royal party drew near to them the pilgrims shouted :
Vladimir, Fair Sun of Kiev, give alms to the
wandering pilgrims. Not a pittance but a royal
gift will we take from such as you, even a noble
benefaction of forty thousand roubles." Then the
Prince lifted his hand to stay the hunt, and dis-
mounting from his horse, greeted the holy pilgrims
with the reverence which he paid to the Saints, and
begged them to sing in his hearing the sweetest of
the holy songs, even the psalm of Elena, which he
was longing to hear.
So the one-and-forty pilgrims placed their staves
in damp Mother Earth and hung their wallets upon
them. Then standing in a circle they sang the
sweetest of the holy songs, even the psalm of Elena ;
and as the sound welled upward to the heavens the
bosom of moist Mother Earth heaved and trembled
as if with mingled joy and grief, the pine trees shook
i 5 4 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
in a neighbouring wood, far away the oak trees upon
the mountains bowed their heads, and the birds were
hushed into silence. The Prince was strangely
moved, and at length could listen no longer, for the
sound of the holy psalm showed him all that he
might be as a King and a Leader ; so he held up his
hand to cause the music to cease, and the one-and-
forty pilgrims took their wallets from their staves
and made ready to pursue their journey.
" I have no roubles with me," said the courteous
Prince, " nor can I refresh you as you deserve and
as I desire. But go onward to Kiev town to the
Princess Apraxia, who in my name will give you
food and drink and lodging."
So they journeyed on until they came to Kiev
town, where they went to the palace and gave the
pilgrims' cry ; and at this piercing sound from so
many heroic throats the Princess Apraxia came in
haste to the window of her apartment, with her
golden hair all unbound, and thrust herself from the
window to her waist. Then she saw the young
Kasyan among the foremost, and knew him for the
dreamer who had troubled the hearts of so many
fair ladies ; and there came into her heart a burning
desire that he should find her as beautiful as the
Dream Maiden and should tell her so.
The one-and-forty pilgrims were now conducted
to an ante-chamber and from thence, after a little
time, to the great hall, where they bowed to North,
South, East, and West, and particularly to the Princess
Apraxia, who was now arrayed more splendidly
KASYAN AND THE DREAM MAIDEN 155
than ever before. She gave them a gracious welcome
and ordered the cloths with drawn-thread work to
be laid upon the white oaken tables, and the richest
of food with the sweetest of drinks to be set before
her guests. The Princess herself sat at the high
table with her nurses and ladies and a host of bold
warrior maids, and Kasyan sat in the great corner.
He had laid aside his cap and from his fair hair the
sun seemed to shine, while his eyes rested upon the
company of ladies for a while, searching diligently,
after his manner, for the Dream Maiden ; but
though all the beauty of Holy Russia was now before
his eyes he turned away, after a while, to contemplate
the painted pictures of holy saints.
When the feast was over the pilgrims were con-
ducted each to his own apartment, where he might
pray before retiring to rest. Now as Kasyan sat
in holy meditation the door was opened and the
Princess Apraxia entered softly. She was dressed
in a simple robe of gleaming whiteness with a girdle
of ruddy gold, and holding out her hands she cried
in quivering tones :
' Am I not fair as the Dream Maiden, young
Kasyan ? '
' Nay, not so," was the cold answer. " Princess,
ask Vladimir for his thoughts on your beauty."
Then the young pilgrim turned aside, and with
anger in her heart the Princess Apraxia left the
room. But while he slept she came again very
quietly, took down his pilgrim's wallet from the
place where it hung, cut it open and placed within
156 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
it the silver loving-cup from which Prince Vladimir
always drank when he returned from his hunting.
Then she sewed up the velvet once more, so neatly,
that the place of the rent could not be seen.
Next morning, as the early sun was rising, the
one-and-forty pilgrims arose, washed themselves in
cold spring water and prayed to God. The Princess
was already astir and saw that her guests were well
supplied. Then having satisfied their heroic hunger,
they called down a blessing upon Prince Vladimir and
upon Princess Apraxia, swung their wallets over their
shoulders and set out for the holy city of Jerusalem.
A short time after their departure Vladimir
returned from his hunting, and sat down to appease
his mighty hunger. Then he called for his silver
loving-cup, and the stewards searched for it in all
corners of the palace, but were not able to find it.
The Prince was very angry, and looking round upon
his household he asked sternly, "Which of you hath
taken the royal cup ? '
None spoke for a moment, and then the clear,
cold voice of the Princess was heard. " My Prince
and Lord," she said, " we feasted yesterday a band of
one-and-forty pilgrims, in accordance with your own
desires. It may be that they have stolen the royal
cup." Thereupon Prince Vladimir gave the word,
and a company of heroes sprang to their feet, eager to
ride after the pilgrim band. But as they prepared
themselves the voice of Ilya of Murom was heard
from the great corner :
" These were no psalm-singers," he said, " but
KASYAN AND THE DREAM MAIDEN 157
heroes of the boldest. Whom have we worthy to
go and outface them."
' I will send Alyosha alone/' said Vladimir, and
it was done in accordance with his word, the messenger
being commanded to speak gently to the pilgrims.
But when he overtook them he called out in an
angry voice :
' Ho, there, ye thieves and robbers. Restore to
me now without dispute the royal cup which you
At this discourteous speech young Kasyan sprang
to his nimble feet, grasped his travelling staff of
walrus ivory as if it were his heroic mace and flourished
it about his head.
" Think you," he cried in righteous anger, " that
we went to Kiev town for the royal cup ? Come nigh
to me and I will punish you as you richly deserve."
But Alyosha did not dare to come within the
whirling circle of that ivory cudgel. He wheeled his
horse about and returning in haste to Kiev told how
the robbers had set upon him when he asked for
the cup, and how he had escaped with difficulty from
their heroic turbulence.
* Alyosha is a fool of an ambassador," said Ilya
of Murom, " send Nikitich. He knows how to
sweeten valour with courtesy."
So Nikitich mounted his horse at once, and when
he came to the pilgrims, who were seated in a ring
on the open plain, he said :
' All hail, ye one-and-forty holy men. I ask for
158 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
' All hail, goodly youth," was the reply, * sit
with us here and share our humble fare."
Then Nikitich sat with them, and in hesitation
began his message. There is great trouble," he
said gently, " in the palace of Prince Vladimir, for
the royal loving-cup is mislaid and without it the
Prince cannot refresh himself after his hunting.
Let me therefore beg of you, good youths, to look
within your pilgrims' wallets and see whether it has
strayed into one of them in error."
The one-and-forty looked at each other, and then
forty turned and looked at Kasyan. "It is well,
good comrades," said their leader, ' to satisfy the
courteous youth. Open your wallets and show him
what they contain, for we can do this without fear."
Thereupon all the pilgrims sprang to their nimble
feet, opened their wallets and showed Nikitich what
they contained, but the royal cup was not to be found
among the forty. Last of all Kasyan opened his
velvet wallet and, lo ! the loving-cup was found within.
Then the forty pilgrims looked in anger and
sadness upon Kasyan. " What shall we do to you
now, young Kasyan ? ' they asked sternly. " Did
you not impose the great vow upon us of your own
choice ? '
" Beloved comrades," said their leader, " I did
not steal the royal cup. Nevertheless do now what
has been agreed amongst us, and break not your
great vow for me."
Then they wept sorely, but they took Kasyan
and did with him in accordance with their terrible
' There passed over the boundless white plain an aged saint with
flowing beard, .... and eyes which shone with laughter'
KASYAN AND THE DREAM MAIDEN 159
vow. After that they prayed to God and went on
their way once more to the holy city of Jerusalem.
Young Nikitich stood in silence while the vow was
performed, and then rode back at great speed to Kiev
town, where he gave the cup to Prince Vladimir and
told of all he had seen. When he had finished the
Princess Apraxia fell in her place to the floor ; and
when her ladies had restored her she spoke no word,
but unloosing her golden hair and unbinding her
golden girdle she went unto the courtyard and lay
upon the great dung-heap.
Prince Vladimir now prepared himself to go and
see the wonder of the fulfilment of the vow. But
before he could reach the place where Kasyan had
been buried to the breast in moist Mother Earth there
passed over the boundless white plain an aged saint
with flowing beard, ruddy cheeks, and eyes which
shone with the laughter of boys and girls. With his
holy hands he restored Kasyan to his completeness,
his manly strength and youthful beauty, and set him
again upon his nimble feet, saying :
' Go thy way, young Kasyan, and thou shalt
overtake the forty at the first inn upon the way to
the holy city of Jerusalem. Pray in that holy city,
visit the grave of the risen Lord and bathe in
Jordan river. And when you come home again build
a cathedral church to St. Nicholas, who loves all
men and especially youths and maidens." Then the
old man vanished from sight ; it was only a snow-
wreath driven before the winter wind across the white
world and he was gone.
160 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Young Kasyan went on his way and late on
that same evening he overtook his companions, who,
when they saw that he was much more comely than
he had ever been, rejoiced over him and praised God
for His goodness. Meanwhile Prince Vladimir had
come to the place where young Kasyan had been
buried and found a deep pit only, whereupon he and
his company returned in wondering amazement to
Once more the one -and -forty pilgrims home
returning stood at the gateway of Prince Vladimir's
palace, asking alms in the name of the Risen Lord.
Then the Prince begged them with reverence to enter
his great hall and partake of his hospitality, and they
came within the portals. But before they sat down
to meat Kasyan asked that he might be taken to the
Princess, who still lay upon the dung-heap, and
whom when he saw in her sorrow and debasement he
breathed upon with his holy breath. Then he laid
his white hand upon her lowly head and pardoned her,
and she arose, arrayed herself, and had never seemed
so fair in the eyes of her lord, Prince Vladimir.
Then after feasting and quiet merriment the one-
and-forty pilgrims went to their own home ; and
young Kasyan raised a cathedral church to St.
Nicholas, who loved all men and especially youths
and maidens ; and for himself he spent his time in
holy deeds and in ministration to the poor, loving
always the Dream Maiden only and keeping her ever
in his golden heart.
HOW STAVR THE NOBLE WAS SAVED
BY A WOMAN'S WILES
HOW STAVR THE NOBLE WAS SAVED
BY A WOMAN'S WILES
STAVR the Noble lived in Chernigof, and when the
daughter of Prince Vladimir was honoured at her
father's feast he was among the guests but took no
part in the boasting. For he sat all silent while the
heroes praised their heroic chargers, their mighty
strength, or their rich store of treasure, and while
the merchants bragged of their great wealth of
Siberian fox-skins or sables. Now when the Prince
saw Stavr sitting all silent, he poured out with his
own royal hands a cup of green wine and brought it
to him, courteously inquiring why he would neither
eat nor drink.
" You do not eat of the white swan, Lord Stavr,"
he said, * nor do you make any boast along with
the others. Have you then no towns with wide
suburbs, or villages with subject hamlets, nor yet a
good mother, nor a beautiful young wife of whom
you may make your boast ? '
" I have enough of which I might boast," said
Stavr. " What petty town is this of Kiev ? My
palace alone covers five miles, my halls of white oak
164 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
are hung with pelts of the grey beaver, the roof with
skins of the black sable. The floors are of silver
and the locks and bars are of steel.
" Furthermore, Prince Vladimir, I have thirty
young men in my hire, each one a master shoe-
maker. With never a pause the thirty continue
making shoes, and I wear a pair for one day and only
by a chance wear them a second day. After I have
cast off a pair of these shoes they are taken to the
market and sold to some prince or nobleman for
their full value. I have another thirty young men
in my hire, each one a master tailor. With never a
pause the thirty continue making coats, and I wear
a coat for one day and only by a chance wear it for
a second day. After I have cast off one of these
coats it is taken to the market and sold to some
prince or nobleman for its full value. But I am no
" Moreover," he went on, after a short pause- for
breath, " I have a mare with a golden coat which
cost at a market price five hundred roubles. On the
best of her foals I ride abroad myself, while the worst
are sold to princes and nobles, who are delighted
when they get them. But I am no boaster."
" Yet there is one treasure," he continued, " of
which I will boast, and that is my wife Vasilissa, who
could buy all Kiev town in one market and sell it
in the next, who could by her wiles deceive the
most dignified princes and nobles, and drive even
Prince Vladimir out of his mind."
For a moment no one among the guests spoke
STAVR THE NOBLE 165
a single word, but Prince Vladimir sat in his place
with ever darkening brow. Then some of the men
about him said :
" Prince Vladimir, Fair Sun of Kiev, it is not
meet to permit this boaster to flout us all. Let him
be cast into a cold, dark dungeon, and then let his
young wife Vasilissa buy all Kiev town in one market
and sell it in the next, let her by her wiles deceive
us all, and let her, if she can, drive even Prince
Vladimir out of his mind."
The counsel seemed wise to the Prince, and he
ordered his guards to fasten iron fetters on the feet
and hands of Stavr, and to place him in a cold, dark
dungeon, with doors of iron and locks of steel, and
there feed him on frozen oats and cold spring water.
This was done forthwith, but while the Prince's
command was being performed the body-servant
of Stavr took horse and rode homeward to Chernigof ,
where he found Vasilissa presiding at a great feast
which she had made for the wives of the rich traders
and the councillors of the town, including also the
wife of the Elder, who was of great consequence.
When the young Vasilissa heard the news from
Kiev town she rose in her place at the board and
"It is time, good dames, that ye went to your
Then they all did so without a word, and Vasilissa
sat pondering for the space of three full hours. ' It
is not a matter of ransom, however high the offer,"
she said to herself, " nor of force, however great
166 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
and courageous, but it is a matter for a woman's
Then she rose in her place, went to her own
apartment and summoned the ladies of her wardrobe.
* My trusty maids," she said, ' cut off my red
gold hair, dress me like an envoy to a prince and
prepare for me a heroic steed. I go now as ambas-
sador from Kodol Island to Prince Vladimir, the
Fair Sun of Kiev, asking the hand of his daughter
Lovely in honourable marriage."
In a short space of time she was ready, shorn and
dressed like a goodly gallant and a prince's envoy.
Then they brought her heroic steed, and she rode
off, surrounded by a brave body-guard of forty
youths of the stoutest, across the open, boundless
glorious plain, and as she rode she trilled a merry
Half of the journey was accomplished when the
party met a rider whose face was sternly set towards
the city of Chernigof. They greeted him courteously,
and reining in his horse he asked the leader of the
party who he was and where he was going.
' I am the ambassador of King Yetmanuila
Yetmanuilovich," was the answer, " and I am on my
way to collect tribute from any princes who value
their lives above roubles. Whither away, yourself ? '
' I am the messenger of Prince Vladimir,"
returned the other, " and I am on my way to lock
the doors of Stavr's palace of white stone, and to
conduct his young wife Vasilissa to Kiev town."
" You are too late," said the youths of the body-
'She put her good steed to the walls and leapt lightly over them '
STAVR THE NOBLE 167
guard, " for the Lady Vasilissa has left the palace
of her husband and has gone away to a distant
The messenger thanked the young men for their
news, and turning his steed, rode swiftly back to
Kiev town, where he informed his royal master that
an ambassador from the stern King Yetmanuila
Yetmanuilovich was on his way, with a strong body-
guard, to collect tribute from any prince who valued
his life above roubles. At this intelligence Vladimir
was sorely troubled, but gave orders that the streets
of Kiev should be cleaned without delay, and that
logs of wood should be placed across the muddy
holes, so that a fair passage might be afforded to the
When Vasilissa reached the outskirts of Kiev
town she put her good steed to the walls and leapt
lightly over them into the courtyard of Vladimir's
palace of white stone. Then she leapt from her horse,
thrust the butt end of her spear into moist Mother
Earth, and flung the bridle over the point. With
the stride of a bold envoy she passed the guards
without greeting, and came into the royal hall, where
she bowed to North, South, East, and West, and
especially to Prince Vladimir. Then she turned
to the Prince, and making known her name as
Vasily Mikulich, the envoy of King Yetmanuila
Yetmanuilovich, she demanded the hand of Prince
Vladimir's daughter Lovely in honourable marriage.
The Prince looked earnestly at the bold wooer and
then said :
1 68 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
! It is well. I will give you the hand of my
daughter Lovely in honourable marriage."
Then, after due notice had been given, he went
in state to his daughter's apartment to tell her with
all the solemnity which the occasion demanded,
that he had chosen for her a goodly husband whose
claim upon her love was supported by a strong body-
guard of forty good youths.
But Lovely looked with a smile at her royal
father, and then looked again with a laugh. Why,
father," she said, " this is no bold ambassador from
the Island of Kodol or elsewhere ; from King
Yetmanuila Yetmanuilovich or any other stern-eyed
monarch. It is a woman. Why, when he walks in
the courtyard I think of a duck in the pond. When
he speaks I think of the note of a flute. When he
walks in the palace I think of the dance, and when he
sits on the bench of white oak he presses his feet
close together. His hands are lily white with taper
fingers, and upon them the marks of rings are plainly
to be discovered." Then Lovely laughed and
laughed again, and the sound was not pleasant to
Prince Vladimir, the Fair Sun of Kiev, who walked
away to the window.
" I will prove her," he said, after pondering for
a time. Then he left the apartment and came to
the ambassador. " Will it please you," he said
courteously, ' to accept the challenge of my heroes
to a shooting match ? '
" I have longed for many things," was the quick
reply, " but for none so much as to receive such a
STAVR THE NOBLE 169
challenge." Then without further delay they went
out upon the open plain and began to shoot at an
oak tree standing at a distance of about a mile. One
shot and another shot, one struck and another missed,
the shooting was good and not so good, and the old
oak merely shook its smaller boughs as if a summer
breeze were blowing.
Then it came to the turn of the ambassador
from the stern King Yetmanuila Yetmanuilovich,
and stepping forward the envoy said, ' I will not
shoot with one of the heroic bows of Kiev. I have
within the fair white linen pavilion in which I have
lodged my brave body-guard a little bow which I
always carry with me when my royal master sends
me upon an embassy across the open steppe." Then
at a hail from the envoy the brave body-guard brought
out the bow. Five of them carried it at one end
and five at the other, while the remaining thirty
bold youths dragged along the quiver filled full of
flaming arrows. Then the ambassador took the
little travelling bow in her hand and fitted to the
bow-string a flaming shaft of steel.
The cord twanged, Prince Vladimir stepped
quickly aside, the arrow sang a journeying song and
shivered the trunk of the ancient oak, so that the sun
streamed through it.
' I will prove this ambassador once again,"
murmured Prince Vladimir in his royal beard. " If
he (she) be a woman he (she) will have no taste for a
Then he got together his strong wrestlers and
170 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
assembled them in a brave company. " Will it
please you," he said courteously, ' ! bold ambassador
of the stern King Yetmanuila Yetmanuilovich, to
try a bout of wrestling."
1 Have you then bold wrestlers, as well as expert
bowmen ? ' asked the envoy. " I have often
wrestled with children during my childhood, and
I can but make a bold man's effort." Then the
ambassador grasped two brave wrestlers in one
heroic arm and three brave wrestlers in the other
heroic arm, and cracked their skulls together until
the Prince begged the wrestler with children to
spare his brave heroes. Then said the ambassador :
' I came to woo your daughter Lovely, Prince
Vladimir, and if you will not give her to me with
your blessing, I will take her with your curse."
You shall have her by my own consent," said
the King, " for with such a wooer her own consent
does not greatly matter."
Then Prince Vladimir seized the occasion to
make a great wedding-feast, which lasted with intervals
for resting for the full space of three days. When
the feast was over the bride and bridegroom were
about to be led to the church to take the golden
crowns, but the ambassador sat sad and silent in the
: What ails you on your wedding morning ? '
asked the father of the bride.
' I know not," was the reply. " It may be that
my father has died or my mother, and my heaviness
is the sign of grief. Perchance I need some music.
STAVR THE NOBLE 171
Call the harp players, and let us see if they can dispel
So the harpers were called, and they sang of
the great deeds of Svyatogor, of Ilya of Murom,
and of Ivan the son of Golden Tress, but for all
their skill and sweetness the heaviness of the am-
bassador was not dispelled.
' I heard in my own home," he said, when the
music ceased, " of a skilful player upon the harp of
maple wood whose name was Stavr of Chernigof.
Send for him, and let us see if he can dispel my
" If I do it not," said Vladimir in his royal beard,
' I shall anger the stern King Yetmanuila Yet-
manuilovich. If I do it, Stavr may be freed from
my prison." Yet he did it.
Then Stavr came, and, standing before the am-
bassador, plucked the strings of his harp of maple
wood. And he sang brave songs of heroic victory,
and gentle songs of constancy in love. As he sang,
the ambassador began to sleep and dream, and from
these signs the royal host knew well that his guest
was pleased and delighted and thankful beyond
measure. Then with a gentle sigh the envoy woke
and the music ceased.
" A boon, O Prince," cried he ; " let Stavr go to
my white pavilion to entertain my brave body-guard
as he has entertained me."
Such a request from one who had paid the
musician the high honour of dreaming to his music
could not be refused, and Stavr was allowed to go
172 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
out of the banquet-hall with the ambassador by his
Now when they came out into the bright sun-
light and had almost reached the pavilion, Vasilissa
looked up at her husband and said :
" Do you not know me, Stavr ? '
" Alas and alack ! ' said he, rubbing his eyes,
" after such a time in such a dungeon I cannot
recall the faces of far-off years."
" Stupid," said she. " Do you not know your
own young wife Vasilissa, of whom you made your
boast ? "
" I would know Vasilissa if I had not seen her
for thirteen years," said Stavr, with a great deal of
certainty and not a little vexation.
" Stupider and stupider," said Vasilissa, turning
away. " I am certain that you would not know her
after three months."
Then she went into the pavilion, where she put
off her ambassador's garments and dressed herself
as Vasilissa, placing a coif upon her head to hide her
shortened hair. When she came forth Stavr dropped
his harp of maple wood upon the lap of moist Mother
Earth, and taking his young wife by her lily-white
hands, he kissed her sugar mouth.
" Let us ride, my fair one," he said, ' ride fast
" Not so," was the reply ; "we shall not steal
away but march away from royal Kiev town. Let
us go back to Prince Vladimir, and to Lovely, my
STAVR THE NOBLE
So they went back to the Prince and told him all
their tale. " With good reason did Stavr boast of
his young wife," he said, with a laugh, and then with
a frown he added, " but what of Lovely the forsaken
bride, for whom I chose a husband ? '
" She will doubtless be easily consoled," said
Vasilissa, " and will choose her next bridegroom for
herself. May he harp as well and boast not so well
as Stavr of Chernigof."
THE GOLDEN HORDE
THE GOLDEN HORDE
PRINCE VLADIMIR lost no occasion of making a royal
feast, and his banquets were the admiration of Holy
Russia and of all the white world. To one banquet
he invited a large number of princes, nobles, mighty
heroes and their body-guards, as well as a company
of merchant princes who had bought land with
their wealth in order that they might be accounted
gentlemen. The host made good cheer, the food
was of the richest, the wine of the greenest, and the
white oak tables gleamed like the newly fallen snow
on the wide steppe. The stove glowed fiercely, and
Ilya sat in the great corner honoured of all.
As the wine-cup passed, the heart of Prince
Vladimir grew more and more generous, and he
gave cities to one prince, towns to a second, villages
to a third, and hamlets to another ; but to Ilya he
gave a cloak of marten skins with a collar of sables.
Then the hero arose, left the banquet-hall with the
cloak held out at arm's length from him, and came
at last to the kitchen. There he dragged the cloak
about the brick floor by one sleeve as if he wished to
defoul it and said savagely :
178 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
"Just as I drag about this cloak of marten skins with
its collar of sables, I will drag about that poisonous
serpent Tsar Kalin by his yellow curls. As I pour
green wine upon this cloak," suiting the action to
the word, " I will pour out his heart's blood."
Then a kitchenmaid came with unwashed face
into the presence of Prince Vladimir, and said without
preface : " Ilya hath been in my kitchen and hath
dragged about the brick floor the mantle of marten
skins with the collar of sables, saying that even so
would he drag Vladimir by his yellow curls. And
he has poured green wine upon the mantle, saying
that even so would he pour out the heart's blood of
Prince Vladimir." Then wiping her hands upon
her apron she added, " And I know not what to do in
Prince Vladimir rose to his feet and his face was
black with anger. Ye mighty heroes ! ' he cried,
raising his right hand aloft, " lead Ilya to our dungeon
and place him behind the iron grating. Pile up
trunks of oak trees against the door and heap yellow
sand over all."
At once a great company of heroes left the banquet-
hall, and coming to the kitchen stood in a ring
round Ilya, who smiled at them as a father might
smile at his boys ; and no man laid hands upon him,
for he was the pride of them all. * Help us now,
Ilya of Murom," they said, " or Prince Vladimir will
visit upon us his sore displeasure." So Ilya, smiling
still, called Cloudfall, saddled him and rode himself
to the entrance of the dungeon. There he dismounted
THE GOLDEN HORDE 179
and let the shaggy bay steed go free, after having
taken from him his saddle and plaited bridle.
Then Ilya went down into the dungeon, and the
heroes set up the iron grating, piled up trunks of oak
trees at the door, and heaped yellow sand over all,
as the prince had commanded. After that they
went back to their host, who praised them for their
obedience and their expedition ; but Princess Apraxia
dug a deep passage underground, and with her own
fair hands carried food of the richest and drink of
the sweetest to Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack.
And this went on for three years, until Tsar Kalin
heard of it, and he was head of the Golden Horde,
who in all his wanderings had seen no fairer lady
than the Princess Apraxia, whom he meant to take
as his own in spite of Prince Vladimir and all his
band of well-fed heroes.
Tsar Kalin assembled the Golden Horde, which
was in number like the yellow sands upon the sea-
shore, to ride against the royal town of Kiev. Under
him were forty Tsars and Tsareviches, and forty
Kings and their heirs, each with a company of forty
thousand men, and when the host was all assembled
it stood along the banks of swift-flowing Mother
Dnieper and round about Kiev town on all sides for
a distance of a hundred miles all told a goodly
escort for a fair princess. When all was ready Tsar
Kalin sat down upon an armless chair in his gold-
embroidered tent of white linen, and wrote a letter
in great haste, using a swan-quill pen with molten
gold in place of ink, and crimson velvet in place of
i8o THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
parchment. Then he called his best and favourite
runner and gave the royal letter into his hands.
" Go," he said, ' to the town of Kiev, falsely
styled ' royal/ Enter not by the gates of shining
white oak, but leap over the city wall. Dismount
not, but riding your charger enter without announce-
ment the palace of white stone. Set the door wide
open, but do not close it behind you. Bow not to
North, South, East, or West, and do no special
reverence to Prince Vladimir. But stand right over
against him, and fling this letter upon the table,
saying to him :
" Take this letter and ask Nikitich, the young
man of supernatural wisdom who can both read and
write, to tell thee what it contains, for it disposes in
set terms of all your pretensions to royalty. Clean
all the streets of Kiev town, take down the wonder-
working crosses of the Holy Temples but leave
upon the domes the tall fiery darts of Ilya lest Falcon
the Hunter should still be alive and build stalls for
horses in the churches. Cleanse also your palaces
of white stone and prepare beds without number,
for our host is great. Brew sweet liquors, for our
thirst is also great, and let cask stand upon cask in
noble array. For in less than two days Tsar Kalin
and his great host shall walk the streets of Kiev, and
our master shall wed the Princess Apraxia."
The boldness and the careful detail of the com-
mand caused the heart of Prince Vladimir to sink
very low, and the best he could imagine was to gain
time. So he caused Nikitich to write a letter in
THE GOLDEN HORDE 181
reply, saying : " Cleaning and fermenting are both
slow processes. I shall need a space of three months
to prepare this city for its coming guests." Then the
favourite runner of Tsar Kalin brought this sub-
missive reply to his master, and the truce was granted.
Prince Vladimir paced to and fro in his chamber,
chewing his moustache, and occasionally heaving a
heavy sigh when no one was near. Meanwhile, the
cleaning and the brewing were proceeding apace, for
as Princess Apraxia said quietly, " There is nothing
lost by cleanliness, and a good store in the larders
and the cellar, for who knows which of our friends
will sleep in the clean beds and partake of our
" Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack is no more,"
said Prince Vladimir bitterly. " There is no hero
to fight for our faith and fatherland. There is none
to defend Prince Vladimir." When the busy Princess
heard these words she paused for a moment in her
work and said, " Little father, command thy trusty
servants to go to the deep dungeon and see whether
Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack be even yet alive."
Then she went on with her dusting, for the china
bowls and cups from Farthest East were always her
own particular care.
c Foolish princess," said her husband, pausing in
his pacing to and fro. c If I cut off your light head,
will it grow again ? How can the youthful aged one
be alive after three years' starvation ? ' The Princess
said nothing, but went on with her work, and in a few
moments Vladimir himself went off to the dungeon
182 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
on the desperate chance. And there, to his wonder,
he found Ilya lying on cushions of down, with food
of the richest and wine of the greenest on a table
beside him, on which was also spread a wonderful
written parchment of the Holy Gospels.
Vladimir was so much astonished to find Ilya
not only alive and well, but to all appearance very
comfortable and happy, that he bowed to North,
South, East, and West, and then particularly to the
hero. " Come forth, Ilya," he said, as if he had taken
no share in the Old Cossack's imprisonment. ' Come
forth, and defend us against the Golden Horde, for
the sake of the widows and orphans which are to be."
Ilya smiled gently and rose slowly from his seat of
comfort, for three years' restraint had somewhat
stiffened him. Then Vladimir hastened to take him
by the hands, as if he had quite forgiven him for a
crime which he had never committed, and leading
him to his own table, placed him in the great corner
and heaped food of the best before him.
But Ilya was not hungry, and he left the table
without a word, for he wanted heroic exercise most
of all. In the open field he saw Cloudfall grazing
quietly as though his master had ridden him only
yesterday ; and you may be quite certain and abso-
lutely sure that no other rider had during the past
three years sat on the back of the faithful shaggy
bay steed. The horse gave a joyful chuckle when
Ilya once more drew near to him, and as his master
proceeded to saddle him he turned his head about
and gazed upon him with heroic approbation.
THE GOLDEN HORDE 183
Certain of the people of Vladimir's palace saw
Ilya mount upon Cloudfall, but they did not see him
as he rode away, so swift was his flight there was
but a smoke wreath on the open steppe and streams
of water burst forth where good Cloudf all's hoofs beat
upon the ground. He gave a great leap upwards and
alighted on the crest of a lofty mountain, from whence
he looked out across the open plain to see if any of the
heroes were within sight who had come out to defend
Holy Russia against the Golden Horde of the Tatars.
Far away in the east he saw the white linen
pavilions of the heroes who had helped him to form
the barrier against Falcon the Hunter, and the sun
shone brightly on their golden embroideries. At the
opening of one snowy tent his keen eyes could descry
even at that distance how the fine wheat had been
shaken out upon the earth for the delight of a hero's
charger, and how that same hero had planted upright
a spear of heroic height and hung upon it a golden
tassel, not for vanity of youthfulness, but as a signal
to all the enemies of Holy Russia that a champion
abode within that pavilion. As he stood there with
his hand shading his eyes Ilya saw another hero
come to that vicinity and, even at that far distance,
he knew him for the young man of supernatural
wisdom Nikitich, who could both read and write.
He saw how the new-comer pitched his pavilion,
shook out fine wheat for his charger's delight, planted
a lofty spear and displayed two tassels, not for vanity
of youthfulness, but to show that a hero and a
scholar abode in that pavilion.
1 84 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Then Ilya came down from the mountain-top,
and before you could say SVYATOGOR he had arrived
in the space between the two upright staffs, where he
gave Cloudfall the rein that he might take his share
of the fine wheat, planted his own lofty spear and
hung three tassels upon it, as a sign that a hero, a
scholar, and a landed gentleman had come to the
assistance of Holy Russia against the Golden Horde.
He now entered one of the snowy pavilions, where
he found twelve Russian heroes sitting at meat, who
all rose to their feet, kissed him and bade him
welcome, whereupon they sat down again to go
forward with the business of eating. But as he was
not yet hungry Ilya did not join them. He hastened
to explain his mission, and asked for their help in
defending Kiev town, Vladimir, and Princess Apraxia.
But one of them said :
" Nay, nay, Ilya of Murom, we will not mount
our steeds to defend Kiev town, Vladimir, and his
Princess. For he has many princely nobles, whom
he feasts right heroically and upon whom he bestows
the richest gifts."
" It will be the worse for all of you," said Ilya,
in great anger, and their voices rose in wrath so that
the good steeds raised their heads from the fine wheat
and looked with intelligent wonder through the
opening of the pavilion.
Meanwhile Vladimir wrapped himself in his
black velvet mantle, which was trimmed with marten,
and paced to and fro in his palace in Kiev town,
for the time of the truce was almost over, and so far
THE GOLDEN HORDE 185
the heroes had not made their appearance. Now as
he paced up and down to soothe his anxiety his
nephew Yermak came to him and begged that he
might have a warrior's charger, a coat of heavy chain
mail and a ponderous mace, as well as leave to ride
against the Golden Horde.
You are a mere boaster," said Vladimir care-
lessly. Why, you have never yet handled a mace."
' If you do not give me the charger, uncle,"
said Yermak, " I will set out on foot." The youth's
quiet determination had more effect upon Vladimir
than weeks of persuasion, and he bade Yermak choose
what charger he desired from the royal stables as
well as the armour which suited him best from the
armoury. Off went the youth in great glee and
equal haste, but the chain mail which he found was
so rusty that he flung it down with impatience upon
the brick floor, whereupon all the rust flew from it ;
so he picked it up, selected weapons to his taste,
ran to the stables, saddled a horse, mounted it and
rode at topmost speed to the pavilion of the heroes.
And what did he find in that hour of anxiety and
the direst peril ? Why, the twelve heroes contentedly
sitting playing at draughts upon a board of gold and
Ilya sound asleep upon a couch under a heavy coverlet
of sables. Then the anger of Yermak was very great
indeed, and he shouted with all his might. " Ho,
there, you Old Cossack, Ilya of Murom. Yonder in
Kiev city there is bread to eat and to spare, but no
one to defend the place against the Golden Horde."
Now Ilya, from force of habit and long practice,
1 86 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
slept always with one ear open, and he knew also
that it was a fatal mistake to lose his calmness, especi-
ally when others about him had lost their own.
So he turned slowly on his couch and said quietly,
' Climb up into the damp oak, young Yermak, and
make an effort to number the host which comes
against us by counting the standards which are
displayed.' 3 So Yermak climbed up into the damp
oak, and Ilya turning upon his other side went to sleep
once more. From his perch in the damp oak Yermak
saw a vast host of the Golden Horde, and how at
that moment the leaders were marshalling their men
in battle array ; and he knew that the shaking of the
bough on which he sat came from the trembling of
moist Mother Earth at the tramp of their myriad
feet. So great was the army that the swift grey
wolf could not trot round it in the space of a long
11 spring day ; the black raven could not fly about it
in the longest day of summer ; the grey bird could
not wing its flight across it in the longest light of
Now Yermak had in him some of the qualities
of a hero, for the size of the host roused his courage
to such a height that he felt impelled to advance
against it by himself, single and alone. So he leapt
quickly from the damp oak, sprang upon his charger,
and rode fiercely across the open steppe against the
vanguard of that great host. Meanwhile the game
of draughts went quietly on in the fair pavilion of
white linen, and Ilya slept. For three days and three
nights this went on while Yermak hurled himself
THE GOLDEN HORDE 187
again and again against the forefront of the Golden
Horde. Then Ilya awoke and said to Nikitich :
' Mount into the damp oak, young man of
supernatural wisdom. Perhaps young Yermak has
fallen down from the branch for no longer do I see
Then Nikitich climbed up into the tree-top and
looked out upon the Golden Horde. He saw the
vast host and he saw more than that not the black
raven flying, nor the bright falcon soaring, but that
heroic youth galloping boldly against the heathen
horde ; and he made his report to Ilya, who rose
deliberately from his couch :
' Rise, ye draught players, and mount your good
steeds. Then in the first place let one of you take
grappling hooks and catch young Yermak by the
shoulders. Say to him when he is stayed in his
headlong flight, * Thou hast breakfasted to - day.
Now let the heroes dine.'
So one of the company went out with strong
grappling irons. Thrice he caught Yermak by the
shoulders and thrice did the young man break away,
rending his chain mail in the action. Then the
messenger returned to report his failure and Nikitich
made the attempt with as little success. So Ilya
went himself. He sat on Cloudfall as the grand-
father of all the oaks stood upon the lap of moist
Mother Earth, and caught Yermak by the shoulder
with his heroic hand saying to him, " Rest your
heroic heart and let us labour now."
Then Ilya rode against that mighty host as the
i88 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
swift eagle swoops down upon the swans and geese
or the falcon darts upon the wild duck ; and at the
place against which Yermak had beaten in vain he
made a breach in the line and began to hew a path
through the host as the mower makes a way through
the thick standing wheat. Then Cloudfall addressed
him with the voice of a man :
" Ho, thou mighty hero of Holy Russia ! with a
heart of steel thou hast advanced against this mighty
host, but even your great might may not overcome
it, for that pestilent robber, Tsar Kalin, is served by
many men of great renown and warrior-maids of
heroic strength and feminine fierceness. Moreover,
he is a wily leader, for he has dug three trenches
across the open steppe and into these you will fall.
I can lift you out of the first and likewise out of the
second, but out of the third I may not lift you though
I should succeed in rising from it myself. For I
watched them digging the trenches while you were
sleeping, and, indeed, I missed a great deal of the
fine wheat while I served you in this manner."
Such a counsel of despair was not pleasing to the
heroic Ilya, who grasped his silken whip in his right
hand and beat Cloudfall soundly upon the flanks.
" Traitor and renegade," he cried in heroic anger,
" I feed thee on white wheat and give you water
from crystal springs and yet you will forsake me in
the deep ditches of the open steppe." And he paid
no heed to the warning of the intelligent animal, but
rolling up the sleeve of his right arm advanced with
unabated fury against the foe. In a few moments
THE GOLDEN HORDE 189
he came to the first trench, into which he fell forth-
with and from which Cloudfall bore him forth in
safety. On he rode, fighting all the way, until he
came to a second ditch, and from that also he escaped
in like manner. Then he advanced again, fighting
all the way, until he came to the third ditch from
which Cloudfall leapt nimbly. But he left Ilya
behind. Thereupon the accursed Tatars leapt down
into the trench and fell upon Ilya of Murom the Old
Cossack. They bound his swift feet and his strong
white hands and led him to where Tsar Kalin sat in
his pavilion of fair white linen embroidered with gold.
" Ah, ho ! Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack,"
cried the pestilent leader of the Golden Horde.
" How could you hope, you old dog, to prevail
against my mighty host ? ' Then to his guards he
said, " Unfetter his swift feet and unbind his strong
white hands." This was done at once, and then Tsar
Kalin said in a voice of honey :
" Now sit down at my table, Ilya of Murom.
Eat of my food and drink of my mead, put on an
embroidered robe, and marry my daughter. Serve
Prince Vladimir no longer but be vassal to me."
Then Ilya's eyes flashed fire like the fire of Falcon
the Hunter, whose father he was. ' If I had by me
my good sword," he said, " thou dog, Kalin the Tsar,
it should woo thy neck. I will do none of these
things, for my duty is to fight for the Christian
temples which my darts have protected even against
my own son Falcon the Hunter, for Prince Vladimir
and Princess Apraxia and the city of Kiev."
igo THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Then Ilya raised his eyes and listened and a
voice sounded in his ears, " Lift up thy hands, Ilya."
He raised them heavenward and into his heroic arms
came the strength of twenty heroes ; and in that
strength he fell upon Tsar Kalin and laid his lifeless
body upon the floor of the fair pavilion. Snatching
up the monarch's sword he ran from the pavilion to
turn it against his host, and company after company
fell before him until his sword edge turned and the
weapon was useless. Then he flung it aside in
impatience, and picking up a Tatar by the ankles he
used him as a club with which he cleared a path
through the host of astonished warriors. ' It is a stout
club, this of mine," he cried grimly as he dealt blows
to right and left ; ' and it has a hard end to it with
which to crack infidel pates."
At last he won his way to the edge of the host,
where he flung his human club from him with a last
great effort, and seizing the horn which hung at his
side he sounded a mighty blast ; for the heroic
efforts he had made had dimmed the clearness of his
eyes, so that he could not distinguish either the white
day or the black night. From far away Cloudfall
heard the sound of that familiar horn and in two
heroic leaps was once more at his master's side.
In a trice Ilya had mounted him and then he rode
away to a lofty mountain upon the summit of which
he stood and, raising his hand to his brow, gazed far
away to the eastward. There he saw again the white
pavilion of the heroes and the horses feeding on the
fine wheat which was strewn for them. " I will
THE GOLDEN HORDE 191
send them a swift messenger," said Ilya of Murom
the Old Cossack.
As he fitted a fiery dart to his stout bow,
Ilya conjured it saying, " Fly, little dart, to yonder
pavilion. Tear through the roof and pierce the
white breast of my brother -in -arms, Samson, that
glorious hero of Holy Russia, and make a small
scratch not a wound which you would bestow upon
one of the Golden Horde, for the hero Samson
sleepeth and taketh his ease while I stand here alone
and have need of his help."
The shaft made a stream of blue light through the
air, and reaching the pavilion tore a flaming path
through the roof, but too quickly for the linen to
catch fire, and made a small scratch upon the white
breast of Samson, rousing him from his heavy sleep.
He opened his eyes, gazed upwards, and saw the
rent in the roof of the pavilion. Then he was aware
of a slight discomfort on his breast, looked down,
saw the scratch, and leapt lightly to his nimble feet.
" Ho, there," he cried aloud, ' ' ye mighty heroes
of Holy Russia, saddle your good steeds without
delay and mount with speed. A message of distress
has come from my brother-in-arms, and had it not
been for the cross upon my breast it would have
honoured me with a wound fit only for one of the
Roused at last the heroes took their chargers from
the scattered wheat, saddled them and rode them
towards Kiev town ; and Ilya noting this from his
point of vantage came down from the mountain to
i 9 2 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
join his twelve brethren, and in a long line of strength
and swiftness the thirteen heroes rode against the
For the space of five hours they mowed down
young and old, and they left at the end of that heroic
period not so many as one single soul to continue
the accursed race. Flushed with victory and self-
confidence, they came together in one place, and all
except Ilya began to boast and to say, " If there were
steps raised up to Heaven we would climb them and
wage war against the sacred hosts."
As these impious words were spoken there
happened a wonder of wonders. For the Tatars
rose up from the field of the slain, and where there
had been one man there were now three, and they
all stood up strong and well upon their feet ; and if
Ilya had not accounted for Tsar Kalin their advance
upon Kiev town would have been sudden and over-
whelming ; but they turned hither and thither like
the sands of the desert, having no leader.
Now as the heroes saw them rise, man after man,
three in place of one, they rubbed their eyes in wonder,
and the impious words which they had spoken
dazzled their sense and confused their wits, so that
they turned their arms against each other and
fought with the fury of sundered friends. But Ilya
took no part in that unnatural fight. Sadly and
dazedly he watched until the twelve lay dead upon
the plain. Then he slowly turned his shaggy bay
steed Cloudfall and rode towards a mountain cave
which no man has ever seen or shall see till the end
A mountain cave- which no man has ever seen '
THE GOLDEN HORDE
of Holy Russia ; and sitting in that cavern with his
sword across his knees he slowly turned to stone.
Cloudfall also became a lifeless statue, and there the
two heroic friends sit on, waiting, waiting, waiting
for the touch of life which will come when Holy
Russia is in direst need and calls aloud in distress
for the courage and skill, the patience and the fiery
valour of Ilya of Murom the Old Cossack.
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER,
THE KINGDOMS OF COPPER, SILVER,
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER,
THE KINGDOMS OF COPPER, SILVER,
IN a certain kingdom in a certain land known to all
of us lived the Great White Tsar and his wife Golden
Tress, who was so beautiful that twice each day she
caused the sun to blush a rosy red, once in the
morning as he rose across the steppe, and once in the
evening as he bade farewell to the white world ;
but for the rest of the day he asserted his kingship
even over Golden Tress, and looked at her boldly
and whenever he wished.
Now the Great White Tsar and his Tsaritza,
Golden Tress, had three sons, Peter, Vasily, and Ivan,
and one great enemy, Whirlwind the Whistler, whom
he feared greatly, because this impetuous foe had
vowed with a shriek and a howl to come at sunset
and whirl away Golden Tress from the palace of the
One evening Golden Tress went out w r ith a
company of maidens and nurses to walk in the
gardens of the palace, and Whirlwind saw his chance.
198 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
He rushed down upon the palace garden, blinding
the eyes of all so that they could not see what tricks
he was playing ; and when the maidens and nurses
opened their eyes they saw r nothing at all and heard
nothing at all except a far-off call of distress and a
shriek of spiteful fury ; for Whirlwind the Whistler
had carried away Golden Tress to his den among
the fastnesses of the mountains, while the trees
bowed in fear before him as he took his way across
the open steppe.
The Great White Tsar was now in deep distress,
and knew not what to do. Years went by and still he
knew not what to do, but one day it occurred to him
to ask the help of his sons, who were now grown into
fine young men. " My dear boys," he said, " which
of you will go and seek Golden Tress ? ' We will
go, and at once, father," said the two elder brothers,
and without delay they set out upon their quest.
When they had been gone for some time the
youngest son, Ivan, said to his father, " Let me go
also, my father, to seek Golden Tress." ' No,"
said the Tsar, " for you are all I have in the white
world." " Do let me go also," said Ivan, "for I
long to wander over the white world and seek my
mother." The father did his best to persuade his
boy to stay with him, for he was now very lonely,
but when he saw that Ivan could no longer rest at
home he yielded to his entreaties, saying to him,
" Well, there is no help for it ; go, and may the God
of Holy Russia be good to you."
Ivan without delay saddled his good steed,
Whirlwind the Whistler carries away (lolden Tress
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 199
entered the audience chamber of his father, bowed
to North, South, East, and West, and particularly to
the Great White Tsar, mounted his horse and rode
on and ever onward across the steppe, whether it
was long or short. By and by he came to a forest
in the heart of which stood a lordly castle protected
from the keen winds by a ring of encircling pines.
Ivan rode into the broad courtyard, where he met an
old man and greeted him kindly with the words,
" Many years and years of health to you." Who
are you, goodly youth ? ' asked the old man, and
Ivan said quietly and proudly, " I am Ivan Tsarevich,
son of the Great White Tsar and his Tsaritza, Golden
Tress." " Oh, my very, very own nephew," said
the old man ; " and whither is God leading you ? '
' I am in search of my mother, Golden Tress,"
said Ivan. " Can you tell me, uncle, where she may
be found ? "
" No, nephew, I cannot," returned the old man,
' and that to my sorrow and discomfiture. But what
I am able to do I will do willingly. Here is a ball.
Throw it before you as you ride. It will roll onward
and lead you to a range of steep rugged mountains.
In the side of this range of mountains you will find
a cave which you must enter, and having entered
you will find within a pair of iron claws."
Take these iron claws," the old man went on,
1 and place them upon your hands and your feet.
This will enable you to climb up the steep face of
the mountain, and having done so, perhaps you will
find there your mother, Golden Tress."
200 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
This was good advice so far as Ivan was able to
judge, so he took the ball in his hand, thanked his
uncle courteously, and, starting his horse on the path
which led through the pine forest, threw the ball
before him. Onward and ever onward it rolled,
but it seemed something more than a mere ball,
for occasionally it came to a parting of the ways and
then appeared to pause for a moment and consider.
Then onward and ever onward it rolled, while Ivan
rode behind it until he came out at last upon an open
plain where a great horde was encamped ; and in
the midst of the horde stood a fair pavilion of white
linen embroidered with gold. The ball made a
path through the ranks of the men-at-arms, who
stood nimbly aside to let it pass, until it rested, but
impatiently rested, by the opening of the pavilion,
near which two stout chargers were feeding on wheat
of the finest which was scattered thickly for their
sustenance and comfort.
Then two leaders came forth shoulder to shoulder
and hand to hand from that fair pavilion, and Ivan
saw that they were his two elder brothers.
" Where are you going, Ivan, son of the Great
White Tsar ? ' they asked, and the young man
answered, " I grew weary at home and thought of
going to seek my mother, Golden Tress. Send
these men of yours to their homes and let us go
The two brothers assented, and in a short space
of time the great army was disbanded, and the two
brothers sat across their chargers ready to go forward
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 201
after the ball which was bouncing in great impatience.
As soon as the three put spurs to their horses it
rolled on again and went onward and ever onward
until it came to a cave in a steep mountain. At the
opening of this cave Ivan slipped down from his
horse and said to his brothers, ' Take care of my
horse while I go on up the face of this mountain,
where perhaps I shall find my mother. Remain
here and wait for me for the space of just three
months. If I do not come back within that time
then you may conclude that it is of no use waiting
for me any longer."
The brothers looked up the face of the steep
mountain and thought in their hearts, " How can
a man climb that mountain-side ? He will merely
fall and crack his skull." But they did not give
utterance to their thoughts. They merely said,
Well, brother, go, and God be with you. We will
wait for you here."
Ivan now stepped forward to the cave, after
giving his charger an affectionate pat upon its glossy
neck, and saw that it was closed with a door of iron.
He raised his hand and struck a hearty blow upon the
door, which opened, and he went in. As he stood in
the middle of the dark earthen floor, iron claws came
upon his hands and feet of themselves, and, coming
forth from the place into the light of day, he began
to climb up the steep face of the mountain climb,
For a whole month he toiled upward, resting at
night beneath some friendly bush, and at the end of
202 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the month reached the summit with a sigh of relief.
" Well," he said, " well, well, glory be to God ! "
For a little while he rested, and then walked
onward on the summit of the mountain walked and
walked, walked and walked, until he came to a castle
of copper. At the gateway sat terrible wriggling
serpents fastened with copper chains, crowds of them
writhing in a mass upon the earth ; and not far
away was a well, at the mouth of which was a copper
bucket fastened with a copper chain. Now Ivan
watched the writhing serpents for a moment, and then,
obeying an impulse of kindliness, he drew water in
the copper bucket and gave to them to drink. When
they had quenched their thirst they lay down in
quiet, and Ivan was able to enter the castle un-
At the doorway and just over the threshold the
young man was met by a Tsaritza who was clothed in
a cloth of a coppery red, warm and brilliant, and whose
hair was of a deep auburn tinged with light and
shining with the early gloss of youthfulness. She
looked coolly at Ivan as if she thought little of him,
but her greeting was courteous enough. [ Who are
you, gallant youth ? ' she asked, and the young
man replied simply :
" I am Ivan, youngest son of the Great White
" How did you come here ? ' asked the Copper
Tsaritza, " with your own will or against your
will ? "
" With my own will," said Ivan. " I am in
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 203
search of my mother. For, while she walked in the
green palace garden, Whirlwind the Whistler came
with a shriek and bore her away to an unknown land.
Can you tell me where I may find her ? '
' No, I cannot," was the reply, " but far away
from here lives my second sister the Silver Tsaritza
perhaps she will be able to tell you where you may
find Golden Tress. But I pray you, good youth,
when you have killed Whirlwind the Whistler, do
not forget me, poor unfortunate, but rescue me from
this place and take me out into the free white world.
Whirlwind the Whistler holds me here as a captive
and comes to visit me once in three months to
torment me with his doleful whining." Then she
gave the good youth a copper ball and a copper ring
as a token. " This ball," she said, " will lead you to
my second sister, and within this ring lies the whole
of the Kingdom of Copper."
Then Ivan set the copper ball rolling and followed
it until he came to a castle all of silver and finer than
the first. At the gateway were . terrible writhing
serpents fastened with silver chains, and near them
was a well with a silver bucket. Remembering the
previous reward for his impulse of kindliness, Ivan
drew water and gave it to the serpents to drink.
When they had quenched their thirst they lay down
in quiet, and Ivan was able to enter the castle un-
At the doorway, and just over the threshold, he
was met by a Tsaritza, who was clothed in cloth of
silver and whose hair was of fine white silver, which
20 4 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
yet did not take away from the beauty of her youth-
fulness. At first she did not see Ivan, and she spoke
to herself. ' It will soon be three years," she said,
" since Whirlwind the Whistler first imprisoned me
in this silver castle, and during that time I have not
seen or spoken with a dweller in Holy Russia. But
by my lost Kingdom I see a Russian now and a
goodly one/' Then she bent her beautiful eyes
upon Ivan and said in a voice like a silver bell,
Who are you, good youth ? '
' I am Ivan, youngest son of the Great White
Tsar," was the simple answer.
" How did you come here ? ' asked the Silver
Tsaritza, ' with your own will or against your
will ? "
" With my own will," said Ivan. ' I am in
search of my mother. For, while she walked in the
green palace garden, Whirlwind the Whistler came
with a shriek and bore her away to an unknown
land. Can you tell me where I may find her ? '
' No, I cannot," was the reply, but not far
away from here lives my eldest sister the Golden
Tsaritza, Elena the Lovely perhaps she will be able
to tell you where you may find Golden Tress. But
I pray you, good youth, when you have killed Whirl-
wind the Whistler, do not forget me, poor unfortunate,
but rescue me from this place and take me out into
the free white world. Whirlwind the Whistler holds
me here as a captive, and comes once in two months
to torment me with his hideous voice." Then she
gave the good youth a silver ball and a silver ring as
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 205
a token and said to him, " Within this little circle
lies the whole of the Kingdom of Silver."
Once more Ivan set the ball rolling, and wherever
it went, there he followed it, and he came at last
across many leagues of open country to a castle of
gold. At the gateway sat terrible wriggling serpents
fastened with golden chains, crowds of them writhing
in a mass upon the earth ; and not far away was a
well at the mouth of which was a golden bucket
fastened with a golden chain. Again Ivan watched
the writhing serpents for a moment and then drew
water in the golden bucket and gave to them to drink.
When they had quenched their thirst they lay
down in quiet, and Ivan was able to enter the castle
At the doorway, and just over the threshold,
he was met by a Tsaritza, who was clothed in cloth
of gold and whose hair was of fine red gold glowing
with the fire of youthfulness. At once she saw
Ivan and said to him :
" Who are you, good youth ? '
" I am Ivan, youngest son of the Great White
Tsar," was the simple answer.
" How did you come here ? ' ' asked the Golden
Tsaritza, " with your own will, or against your will ? '
" With my own will," said Ivan. ' I am in
search of my mother. For, while she walked in the
green palace garden, Whirlwind the Whistler came
with a shriek and bore her away to an unknown
land. Can you tell me where I may find her ? '
" I can indeed tell you," said the Golden Tsaritza.
206 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
1 She lives not far from here. Whirlwind the
Whistler flies to her once a week and to me once a
month, and he wearies both of us with his shrieks
and his moans. Here is a golden ball for you.
Throw it before you and follow it. It will lead you
to your mother." Then she gave the good youth a
golden ring as a token and said to him : " Within
this little circle lies the whole of the Kingdom of
Gold. I pray you, good youth, when you have
conquered Whirlwind the Whistler, do not forget
me, poor unfortunate, but rescue me from this place
and take me out into the free white world."
" I will take you," promised Ivan. Then he
rolled the golden ball before him and wherever it
went, there he followed it, until he came at last to
such a palace as he could scarcely bear to look upon,
it blazed so brightly with diamonds and precious
stones. At the gateway six-headed serpents were
hissing, but when Ivan had given them water from a
well with a diamond bucket, fastened with a chain of
fine seed pearls, they sank down in quiet and allowed
him to pass into the castle. He walked quickly
through one lofty chamber after another and in the
last chamber he found his mother.
She was sitting on a great throne of a single
emerald clad in the festal robes of a Tsaritza, and
crowned with a dazzling crown, beneath which her
golden tresses flowed downward over the emerald
steps. Raising her sad clear eyes, she looked at
the stranger, and as she looked the mist of memory
cleared, a smile played about her beautiful ruddy
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 207
lips, and she said eagerly, holding her hands forward,
1 Ah, is it you, my dear, dear son ? How have you
found out the place of my concealment ? '
" That is so and so and by the way and matter-
less," said Ivan. " Suffice it to say that I have come
to fetch you home."
' But, my dear, dear son," said Golden Tress,
" that will be indeed a hard matter for you. In
these mountains the king of all is mighty Whirlwind,
whom all the spirits of the air obey. It was he who
bore me away, and it is against him that you must
fight. Come quickly to the cellar."
Golden Tress stepped with the step of youthful-
ness down from the emerald throne, and taking her
son by the hand led him down a dark stairway into
the cellar beneath the palace.
Now in the cellar there were two tubs of water,
one on the right hand and the other on the left.
Golden Tress led Ivan forward and said to him,
' Drink from the tub on your right hand." Ivan
drank and drank deeply while his beautiful mother
watched him closely, and when he was finished she
asked, " Well, what strength is in thee ? ' "I am
so strong," said the youth, " that I could turn over
the whole castle with one hand."
' Drink again," said Golden Tress, very quietly.
Ivan drank again and drank deeply.
What strength is in thee now ? ' asked his
" I am so strong," said he, " that, if I wished, I
could turn the whole world over."
208 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
That is very great strength," said Golden
Tress. ' Now move these tubs of water so as to
make them change positions. Place the right-hand
tub on the left and the left-hand tub on the right."
Ivan did so with perfect ease.
" Now," said Golden Tress, " let me tell you
why I asked you to do this. In one of these tubs is
water of strength, but in the other, water of weakness.
Whirlwind always drinks the water of strength, and
puts it on the right side, so we must mislead him or
you will never be able to overcome him." Thereupon
they made their way up the winding stairway to the
apartment of Golden Tress, in which stood the
shining throne made from a single emerald.
Golden Tress sat down upon this throne and
composed herself, as if she were expecting a visitor.
" In a short time," she said, Whirlwind will fly
home. Come and hide beneath my purple robe so
that he may not be able to see you, and when he
enters and runs to try to embrace me reach out
your hand, which is now a hand of heroic strength,
and seize his club. He will rise high and ever
higher, but do not therefore release your hold upon
his club. He will fly out of the window in the roof,
and will carry you over seas and over precipices, but
do not in dizziness release your hold upon his club.
After a while Whirlwind will grow weak and will
return to this palace and go down to the cellar, but do
not release your hold upon his club. He will drink
of the water in the tub on the right hand, but see that
you drink meanwhile of the water in the other tub.
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 209
" When he has drunk well, he will grow weak, and
then you must take his sharp sword from his girdle
and hew off his head with it. As soon as his head
falls to the ground you will hear voices behind you
crying, ' Strike again, strike again.' But these will
be the voices of tempters, and your answer to them
must be, ' A hero's hand strikes once to kill, but never
once to maim.'
Ivan had scarcely disposed himself under the
flowing purple robe which swept down upon the
green and translucent base of the throne of Golden
Tress, when suddenly the room grew dark and every-
thing within it trembled and creaked. Whirlwind
flew to his castle, and no one saw his form until
he struck the courtyard stones. Then he became a
goodly young man with a changeful restless face,
and strode quickly into the castle carrying his club
with a flourish, until he came before the emerald
" Tfu, Tfu, Tfu," he said, sniffing disgustedly.
" There is an odour of Russia here. Have you had
visitors ? '
" I cannot tell why you should think so," said
Golden Tress. Then Whirlwind came forward and
held out his arms to embrace the mother of Ivan,
but with a quick movement the heroic youth stretched
out his hand and seized his club. " I'll eat you,"
cried Whirlwind in a passion of anger, and Ivan
replied, " Well, either you will or you won't."
With a piercing shriek Whirlwind turned and
mounted quickly upward. He passed with a howl
2io THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
through the open window in the roof, and then his
form was changed, but what it was now no one knew
or was able to describe, for as often as any one opened
eyes to look at him he filled them with dust and
water ; if any one sniffed him he made them sneeze ;
if any one tried to lay hands upon him he buffeted
them in the chest and turned them about like weather
vanes, all the while crying out, * What is my shape ? '
Only pigs could see him and knew of what shape he
was and they had no powers of description.
It was well for Ivan that in this furious flight he
kept a firm hold on Whirlwind's club, for as he
rushed on over the world he kept shrieking, " I will
smash you ! I will lay you low ! I will drown you ! '
But as his club was firmly held he was powerless to
give a knock-down blow, and presently, wearied out
with his own fury, he grew weak and began to sink.
Then he turned homeward, and alighted gently and
wearily upon the stones of the courtyard, where he
became a young man with a restless peevish face,
listlessly bearing his club, which would have trailed
upon the ground if the heroic hand of Ivan had not
upheld it. He made what speed he could to the
cellar, and at once took a deep draught of the water of
weakness, while Ivan, dropping the club, ran to the
water of strength, of which he drank long and con-
tentedly, and so became the first mighty hero in the
whole white world.
Seeing that Whirlwind had now become weak to
extremity he took his sharp sword from his girdle
and cut off his head with it. Then from behind him
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 211
he heard voices crying, ' Strike again, strike again,
or he will come to life." " No/' cried Ivan in a
heroic voice which in spite of himself seemed to
echo throughout the world. ' A hero's hand strikes
once to kill, but never once to maim" Then without
loss of time he made a fire, burned the body of
Whirlwind as well as the head, and scattered his
ashes from the ramparts of the castle to North, South,
East, and West.
Then Golden Tress was glad and embraced her
son. " Now let us eat," she said, ' and then go
home together. It is very wearisome here for of
what use is a throne of a single emerald if there are
no people ? What are fine couches and sideboards
and flagons and furniture if there is no love ? '
" Are there not even servants to wait upon
you ? " asked Ivan. " How are you served ? '
" You will see in a moment," was the reply.
" Think of dinner." So Ivan thought of the nicest
dinner he could imagine thick soup, white fish
with pink sharp sauce, meat, potatoes and spinach
with rich brown gravy, iced pudding and apples
and nuts for dessert and before he could have
written out the list all these things were upon the
sideboard where they kept hot until they were
needed, all of course except the pudding which stayed
outside upon the window-sill to keep cool.
But with all this there was no sound, not even the
cheerful clatter of plates or the chink of a jug upon a
tumbler, for the plates came floating singly through
the air and settled down quietly before the diners,
212 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
while the wine rose from the bottom of the glasses
as you have seen it do at the conjuror's. Ivan and
his mother ate in silence, and the young man was
surprised to find the meal somewhat disappointing.
His lovely mother watched him closely with a wise
smile upon her face. When we get home," she
promised herself, * he shall have hot cakes fresh
from the oven with plenty of butter and / shall make
them myself." Then she laughed inwardly and
sniffed gently through her delicate nostrils as if she
smelt the kitchen smell of newly made bread and
cakes, and that is better even than a throne of a
single emerald or a couch with a cover of sable
skins lined with softest silk from Samarcand.
When mother and son had rested for a while
and talked of many things, Golden Tress enquiring
particularly how the stoves were drawing in the
palace of the Great White Tsar, the young man said,
" Mother, let us go home now, for it is time, and
besides, under the mountains my brothers are waiting
for me. And on the way I must rescue three
Tsaritzas who are living in the castles of Whirlwind
In a short time mother and son were ready for
the journey, and though the castle was full of untold
treasure they carried away with them not even a
diamond of the size of a pin point. But they carried
as many linen sheets as they could bear, not for
vanity of housewifery but for a useful purpose.
After a long journey they came to the Golden
Tsaritza, Elena the Beautiful, and led her forth,
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 213
asking her to carry with her as many linen sheets as
she could comfortably bear. In a similar manner
they led forth the Silver Tsaritza and the Copper
Tsaritza, and these also brought linen sheets for the
device which Ivan had designed.
When they came to the top of the precipice they
tore the sheets into broad strips, knotted them
together, and made a long linen rope of them ; and
by means of this stout rope, one end of which they
fastened to the trunk of a lofty pine which had seen
the dawn of history, they let themselves down to
the plain below, first the Copper Tsaritza, then the
Silver Tsaritza, then the Golden Tsaritza, Elena the
Beautiful, and last of all Golden Tress, the Tsaritza
of the Great White Tsar.
Now the two elder brothers of Ivan were standing
below, waiting and watching, and when they saw the
lovely ladies step daintily one after the other upon
the earth they said to each other :
' Let us leave Ivan up there and let us take the
three lovely maidens and our mother to our father,
and tell him that we rescued them from Whirlwind
' Right and just," said Peter quickly, " I will
take the Golden Tsaritza, Elena the Beautiful, for
myself, and you, Vasily, take the Silver Tsaritza for
yourself, and we will give the Copper Tsaritza to
Meanwhile Golden Tress was looking steadily up
the face of the precipice, waiting impatiently for
Ivan to come down by the ladder of linen. But the
2i4 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
two brothers ran forward, seized the linen, pulled it
and tore it away. And when Ivan heard it snap near
the trunk of the great pine, he sat down and in spite
of his strength and manliness wept so sorely, and for
such a long time, that his tears made a cascade down
the face of the precipice, where the ladder of linen had
wavered in the breeze.
Then he arose somewhat refreshed and relieved,
and turning back walked aimlessly through the Copper
Kingdom, the Silver Kingdom, and the Golden
Kingdom, but he met no living person. Then he
came to the Diamond Kingdom, but even here he
met no living person. He was now weary almost
to death, and in the midst of wealth untold yearned
for the sound of a human voice. In the Diamond
Palace, from which he had rescued his mother, he
wandered disconsolate not knowing what to do when,
all at once, he saw a whistle lying on the window
ledge. He took it up, and, being a good musician,
began to play a tune, but as soon as he had sounded
only one note Lame and Crooked stood before him,
who seemed to be bowing all the time.
What is your pleasure ? " he asked.
" Get a bed ready," said Ivan, and as soon as the
words were spoken the bed stood near him with the
pillows smoothed and the quilt turned down a little,
so as to show the sheets of the finest linen. Ivan
crept into the bed, in which he found a warming pan,
settled down cosily and was soon in a deep sleep.
After a time, the exact length of which does not
matter, he awoke refreshed and whistled again.
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 215
Before he could say ELENA, Lame and Crooked stood
What is your pleasure ? " he asked.
Can everything be done, then ? " asked Ivan.
Everything is possible," was the reply. " Who-
ever blows that whistle has everything done for him.
As we served Whirlwind the Whistler before, so now
we are glad to serve the man who conquered him
by bracing himself with draughts of the water which
comes from the stinging East. It is only necessary
to keep the whistle by you at all times."
Well, then," said Ivan, " let me be in my own
city this very moment."
He had no sooner spoken than he found himself
in his own city, and standing in the middle of the
market square. As he stood looking around him a
jolly old shoemaker came up and Ivan said to him,
Where are you going, my good man ? '
' I am going to sell my shoes," was the reply,
* for I am a shoemaker."
Take me into your employment," said the son
of the Great White Tsar.
' But do you know how to make shoes ? ' was
the cautious enquiry.
' Oh yes," said Ivan, with such confidence that
the man could do nothing but believe him.
' I have the means of doing everything not only
making shoes but clothes as well."
' Come along, then," said the jolly shoemaker,
and they went to his house. As soon as they had
entered, the man took Ivan to the workshop and
216 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
pointing to a seat near a bench he said : "Sit down
there and get to work. I will go out to sell my
wares, and when I return to-morrow I shall be able
to judge exactly of your skill."
As soon as the man was gone Ivan took out his
whistle and summoned Lame and Crooked.
What is your pleasure ? " asked he.
To have shoes ready by to-morrow."
Lame and Crooked smiled a smile which seemed
to wander round the room. " That is not work,"
he said, " but recreation."
* Here is the leather," said Ivan, and Lame and
Crooked looked at it with a curving upper lip.
That is poor stuff," he said, " and the proper place
for it is out of the window." Then he jumped out
very nimbly after it and Ivan saw him no more ;
but when the young man awoke next morning he
saw on the table beside his bed several pairs of shoes
of the very best. He had scarcely dressed himself
when the jolly old shoemaker came into his room
and said, ' Well, young man, are the shoes ready ? '
They are ready for sale," said Ivan quietly,
pointing to the shoes on the table beside his bed.
The shoemaker inspected them very closely, and
his eyes opened wide in wonder. " Why, young man,"
he said, with a jolly smile, " you are not a shoemaker
but a magician. I must go at once to the market
and turn these fine shoes into good red gold."
Off he went to the market, and while he waited
for customers to arrive he heard all the gossip of the
city, which was greatly moved to curiosity over three
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 217
forthcoming weddings at the palace of the Great
White Tsar. He heard that Prince Peter was to
marry the Golden Tsaritza, Elena the Beautiful,
that Prince Vasily was to marry the Silver Tsaritza,
and that the Copper Tsaritza was to marry a general.
Dresses were being made for the wedding, said
the good dames of the market-place, such as had
never yet been designed or embroidered within the
memory of the oldest in Holy Russia. Then came
a royal messenger seeking shoes for Elena the
Beautiful, and after searching the whole market he
came to the stall of the jolly old shoemaker and easily
concluded that his wares were finer and more
delicate than any others ; so he told the man to
pack up his entire stock and come with him to the
apartments of the Golden Tsaritza, Elena the Beauti-
ful, in the palace of the Great White Tsar.
The Golden Tsaritza was seated among her
maidens, who were so busy and excited and trembling
that they sewed many of the lovely garments quite
wrong ; and as the shoemaker entered the room the
Lady-of-Honour, who bore the high title of Golden
Scissors, was scolding a pretty young dressmaker for
putting the right sleeve in the place of the left. As
for Elena the Beautiful herself, she sat looking
straight before her with the expression on her face
of a person who is obliged to do one thing but would
rather do something else.
When she saw the shoes spread out on a table
before her she looked at them in a listless manner ;
then, all at once, her beautiful eyes moistened and
2i8 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
brightened, and she said to the shoemaker who stood
near with his cap of rough fur in his hand, " What
is the meaning of this ? They make shoes of this
pattern only in the mountains." At once an idea
for gaining time came into her mind, and turning to
the somewhat bewildered shoemaker, whose jolly
face was clouded and anxious owing to his good
fortune, she said to him in a voice which sounded
hard and cold like the ring of steel upon an anvil,
' Make me, without measure, another pair of shoes
cunningly sewn, set with precious stones and glittering
with diamonds. They must be ready for to-morrow,
otherwise my servants will hale you to the gallows."
The shoemaker was then taken to the Tsar's
treasury, where he chose the precious stones required,
and was given money to buy leather of the richest
and softest kind that could be obtained. He had
received the most exalted order he had ever been
honoured with, and might have put upon his sign-
board, "Shoemaker by Royal Appointment to the
Golden Tsaritza," but still he was far from happy
in fact he was utterly miserable. ' By Svyatogor,
Ilya, and Vladimir and all the heroes," he said, " but
greatness means great worry. Whatever shall I do ?
How can I make shoes by to-morrow when I am not
allowed to measure the exalted foot of the beautiful
Tsaritza ? I shall make nothing by to-morrow but
an end to my life, for it is very clear that I shall make
acquaintance with the gallows say about ten o'clock.
However, seeing that it cannot be helped, let me have
a last jollification with my companions."
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 219
Off he went to the inn where he had more friends
than was good for him, and when they saw his face
so gloomy which was usually so jolly and generous
they eagerly asked him the cause of his trouble.
' Oh, my dear friends," he said, " I have been
honoured with a Court order and as a consequence
they are going to hang me to-morrow, and only
the lucky man who succeeds to my business will
reap the benefit of being able to call himself
' Shoemaker by Royal Appointment to the Golden
Why so ? " asked his companions, who were so
thirsty that they thought the shoemaker might have
made a much shorter speech. Then the man told
his trouble as shortly as possible, concluding with the
words, What think you, friends, of an order like
that ? I may as well enjoy myself with you for the
last time, for they will surely come for me to-morrow
morning say about ten o'clock."
So they drank and drank and sang and joked and
danced and then drank again, by which time the
shoemaker was by no means steady upon his legs.
Well," he said, as the town clock struck twelve,
" I will take home a keg of spirits and lie down to
sleep, and to-morrow when they come to take me to
the gallows I will drink a gallon and a half at one
draught, and if they hang me drunk I may be able to
look and feel jolly until the last."
Then he staggered home with the keg under his
arm. He had scarcely passed the threshold when he
saw Ivan and began at once to upbraid him. " You
220 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
abandoned rascal," he cried, * see what your fine
shoes have done for me." Then he told him as
much of the story as he could remember, and
staggered off to bed saying, " When they come for
me in the morning, wake me up."
As soon as all was quiet Ivan took out his whistle
and blew, whereupon Lame and Crooked appeared
What is your pleasure ? ' he asked, and the
young Prince told him what was required.
We obey ! " said Lame and Crooked, who did
not even ask for the precious stones from the Tsar's
treasury which the shoemaker had used to wipe out
his score at the inn.
Ivan lay down to sleep, and when he awoke next
morning he thought that the sun had risen two
hours too soon for his room was filled with fiery
golden light. But it was only the brilliance of the
precious stones set in the dainty shoes on the table
by his bedside. He jumped up, dressed himself in
the light of the shining gems which shone not by
reflected radiance, but from the depth of their glowing
hearts. Then he picked up the dainty shoes, kissed
them lightly, and took them to his master whom he
roused with a shake.
It is time to rise," he said in the man's ear.
What ! ' cried the shoemaker, sitting bolt up-
right with a tremendous start. ' Have they come
for me ? Bring me the keg quickly and draw the
blind to keep out the light, which shines too cheer-
fully for a poor fellow who is to be hanged about ten
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 221
o'clock. Here is a cup. Pour the spirits in. They
shall hang me drunk."
" But the shoes are made," said Ivan quietly,
looking at the man with amusement almost con-
quered by disgust.
" Made ? How made ? Who made them ?
Where are they ? Can't you draw the blind and
keep out that silly light ? '
Ivan drew the blind but the light was not thereby
diminished, and now the bewildered shoemaker saw
that the radiance came from the precious stones in
the shoes which Ivan held in his hand.
The man rubbed his eyes in a dazed manner and
then said, " They are made sure enough and look
small enough even for Elena the Beautiful. When
did we make them ? '
" They were made in the night," said Ivan
quietly, " but it is possible that you do not remember.
Do you really find yourself unable to recall having cut
and sewed them. Do try to remember think it
over very hard."
" Oh, brother," said the bewildered shoemaker,
" it must have been working over these brilliant
gems that has dazed my wits. I barely remember,
but only very barely. But I must make haste to
carry them to Elena the Beautiful. Thank goodness
we have been able to execute her exalted order."
" And that you have been saved from occupying
a still more exalted position," said Ivan, who being
a prince had a great sense of humour.
" Yes, indeed," said the shoemaker as he left the
222 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
house at great speed. Before Ivan could say ELENA,
which, by the way, he was continually saying to him-
self, the jolly shoemaker was standing in the apart-
ment of the Golden Tsaritza where the preparations
for the wedding seemed to be as busy as ever.
Elena the Beautiful looked at the shoes, and
something to which she dared not give a name told
her heart what had taken place. " Surely," she said
to herself, very very softly, ' ' the good Spirits made
these for Ivan." Then aloud she said to the grinning
shoemaker, " How did you make these ? '
" Oh," said the man, " I am able to do every-
The reply of the Tsaritza came quickly upon this
boast. " If you can do everything, make me a
wedding robe embroidered with gold and ornamented
with diamonds and precious stones, which will fit
my body as exactly as these shoes fit my feet. Let
it be ready by to-morrow morning, for, if it is not,
off goes your head."
The face of the shoemaker fell, and he went out
into the street and walked a long, long way thinking
very hard. " Well, well," he said at last, 'it is of
no use mourning. To-day will be my last day,
that is quite certain, and I may as well spend it in
jollification. For though a shoemaker may by great
industry make a wonderful pair of shoes, he cannot
make a wonderful wedding robe for a 'beautiful
Tsaritza without measurements, to say nothing of
trying on." Then he went off to the inn, where he
found his companions, who seemed to live there.
' '"Oh," said the man. "I am able to do everything"
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 223
Well, what is wrong now ? ' they asked him
as soon as they saw his gloomy face.
" Nothing but contradiction," he said. " My
high-born patron has now made me Court Dress-
maker and has ordered me to make her a wedding-
robe embroidered with gold and ornamented with
diamonds and precious stones, which will fit her
body as exactly as my shoes fit her feet, and the whole
contraption is to be ready by to-morrow morning,
for, if it is not, off goes my head."
' Ah, brother," said the loafers, "it is clearly
impossible that you should execute the order, and as
we suppose you have the stones on your person we
may as well go and frolic for to-day."
The face of the shoemaker fell still lower, for in
his consternation he had forgotten to ask for the jewels
from the royal treasury. But he had in his pocket
the large price paid for the shoes, and, as his previous
score was paid, the inn-keeper allowed the topers to
have a good supply of spirits. Once more they caroused
and once more the shoemaker-dressmaker took a keg
of spirits home with him and told Ivan all his tale,
concluding with the words, " Wake me in the morning.
I'm off to bed." In a few minutes he was sound asleep.
Ivan at once blew the whistle, and Lame and
Crooked appeared before him.
" What is your pleasure ? '
" Make me a robe which will fit Elena the Beauti-
ful to perfection. Let it be embroidered with gold
and ornamented with diamonds and precious stones,
and deliver it here before dawn."
224 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
We obey," said Lame and Crooked. The
wedding robe shall be ready."
Ivan slept and woke before dawn. He knew at
once that the light in his chamber came from the
shining gems on the bodice of the beautiful robe
which lay across a chair by his bedside. He jumped
up, dressed himself quickly, and taking up the dress
kissed the corsage where the heart of Elena would
beat, and carried the wonderful garment to the
chamber of his snoring master.
The light from the gems roused the man, who
groaned, sat up slowly, and rubbed his eyes. " What ! "
he cried in a trembling voice, " is it broad day already,
and have they come to cut off my head ? Give me
that keg of spirits and a can. I will drink three
gallons at a draught and then I shall be so full of
courage that I shall not feel the axe."
" But the robe is ready," said Ivan very quietly.
" What ? ' roared the Court Shoemaker-Dress-
maker. " When did we make it ? '
" It was made in the night, of course, and it is
not the first time that a Court Dressmaker has had
to work until the small hours. Do you not remember
cutting the cloth ? '
" Ah, brother," said the man who was now
weeping like a crocodile for sheer relief, " it must
have been the sheen of the gold embroidery that
dazzled my wits. I barely remember, but only very
barely. But I must make haste to carry this robe
to Elena the Beautiful. Thank goodness I have
been able to rise to the occasion once more."
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 225
Yes, thank goodness," said Ivan, ' ' but it is to
be hoped that you will not be honoured with any
more Court appointments." His employer, how-
ever, did not hear this last remark, for by the time
that Ivan had finished speaking he was standing in
the apartment of Elena the Beautiful, where the
preparations seemed to be as busy as ever.
The Golden Tsaritza looked at the robe and
something to which she dared not give a name told
her heart what had taken place. " Surely," she said
to herself, " the good Spirits made this robe for
Ivan." Then aloud she said to the prinking shoe-
maker, " How did you make this ? '
' Oh," said the unlucky man, " I can make
The reply of the Tsaritza came like a flash of
lightning. ' See that at to-morrow's dawn," she
said, ' the Kingdom of Gold be on the sea, seven
miles from shore, and across the blue waters stretch-
ing from that Kingdom to our palace let there be a
bridge of gold with costly crimson velvet laid upon
it and set at each side with wonderful trees to form an
avenue full of love-birds singing sweetest songs of
dawn with varied voices. If this is not done by
to-morrow morning I will have you cut up into four
As the Tsaritza spoke, the face of the shoemaker
took on an expression of wonder worthy of a large
audience at the most wonderful conjuring entertain-
ment you can imagine. Then he turned slowly
and left the apartment of Elena the Beautiful, mutter-
226 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
ing to himself, ' Court Shoemaker, Court Dress-
maker, and now Court Magician. I may as well
have another day's frolic, for though a man may rise
twice in drowning he does not rise thrice and live."
He walked slowly off to the inn, heavily weighed
down with greatness and cursing the day when he
had forsaken his simple life. But he had the price
of the robe in his pouch and the third carousal was
as jolly as the others, and he swore to drink six
gallons of spirits on the following morning. His
friends gave him a drunken cheer, sang ' He's a
jolly good fellow," and saw him home with the keg
under his arm.
As before Ivan was waiting for him, and as good
luck would have it, the poor man for all his intoxica-
tion was able to remember what was required of him ;
and as for Lame and Crooked he smiled a crooked
but very intelligent smile when the task was detailed
to him. " At last," he said, " you give me real
work to do."
Ivan went to sleep and woke early thinking that
he had overslept himself and that it was now broad
noon, for a bright light as of the sun was shining in
at his chamber window which, as he knew very well,
faced due south. He sprang from his bed, and, draw-
ing aside the blind, saw across the sea the Kingdom
of Gold in all its splendour lying like a shining
island seven miles from the shore, and across the
waters stretching from that Kingdom to the palace
of the Great White Tsar there was a bridge of gold
with costly crimson velvet laid upon it, at each side
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 227
of which were set wonderful trees to form an avenue
full of love-birds singing sweetest songs of dawn
with varied voices. Ivan dropped the blind, dressed
himself with particular care in the golden light which
filled his chamber, went into his master's room and
roused him from his heavy sleep.
" Have they come for me ? ' cried the man in
great terror, " give me the keg and- But Ivan
said quietly :
" But the Kingdom of Gold is upon the sea."
"Ah," said the shoemaker. " How did we do
that ? "
" Don't you remember how we fixed it ? said
" Yes, yes," was the hasty reply. " I dimly
remember, very, very dimly. Let us go out to see
if we have finished the work with the care expected
of our exalted appointments."
In a few moments they were upon the shore and
found everything prepared in a manner which seemed
to be fit even for Elena the Beautiful, but one thing
did not please the fastidious taste of Ivan.
" Here, master," he said, " here is a peacock
feather duster. Go and dust the railing of the path-
way to the kingdom. And if you meet any persons
in the avenue give them this letter."
The man at once went off to do the bidding of
his journeyman, and was soon busily engaged in
delicately dusting the golden railing of the bridge.
Meanwhile Elena the Beautiful arose, and drawing
the curtains of her chamber which looked towards
228 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the sea saw the Kingdom of Gold lying like a shining
island on the bosom of the deep blue waters. Her
maids dressed her in a simple robe of white lawn, with
a girdle of gold, and then she went to the Great
White Tsar, who sat at breakfast with Golden Tress,
and told him what she had seen across the sea. At
once the mighty monarch sent out royal messengers and
these men walked along the bridge until they met the
shoemaker, who was busily engaged in the task which
Ivan had set him. When they accosted him he did
not cease his work, but taking a letter from his pouch
handed it with his left hand to the men whose duty
it would have been to hang, behead, and quarter him
if it had not been for his wonderful assistant who
could get everything done.
The men went away and brought the letter to the
Great White Tsar just as he was beginning on toast
and marmalade. He propped it up against the
diamond teapot and read it as he finished his morning
meal, and as he did so he made such strange exclama-
tions that Golden Tress thought with concern that a
crumb of toast must surely have gone down the
Then he arose and ordered out the golden State
coach for himself and Golden Tress, as well as a
simple waggon of dark wood drawn by a small shaggy
pony for the Golden Tsaritza, and in this way they
came to the end of the bridge which led to the King-
dom of Gold, where stood Ivan with Peter on one
side of him and Vasily on the other.
The Tsar frowned when he caught sight of his
WHIRLWIND THE WHISTLER 229
two elder sons, for Ivan's letter had told him all the
truth, but as he looked Ivan embraced both of them
as a sign that on this golden morning he could
forgive any one.
The State carriage came to a stop, and Ivan ran
forward to greet his parents, but hearing a low cry
of gladness from the simple waggon behind he ran
forward, lifted Elena the Beautiful to the ground, and
leading her to his mother knelt to receive her blessing.
You have not paid much attention to the details
of this story if you cannot imagine what followed ;
but even the most careful reader cannot measure the
bliss of the lovers who had known that they loved
each other since their first meeting without a word
being spoken; and that is really a greater wonder
than the magic feats performed by Lame and Crooked,
when you come to think about it soberly.
As for Peter, he was married to the Silver Tsaritza,
while Vasily wedded the Copper Tsaritza, and the
shoemaker was made a general on the retired list,
which meant that he had fine uniforms and a grand
house, but was not expected to do any fighting. He
was given a coat of arms by Golden Tress which
bore three spirit kegs, as a reminder that he was to
be a temperate man for the rest of his life, and for
all I know, he really was.
VASILY THE TURBULENT
VASILY THE TURBULENT
PEACE had no charm for Vasily of Novgorod the
Great, but where there was fighting to be done there
he was at his best and happiest. Rest and ease had
no attraction for him, but where the rover wandered
there was the place of his journeying. His father, how-
ever, had lived in peace with the men of Novgorod
the Great, and had died leaving to his widow and his
only son a great store of treasure, a wide palace with
a lofty tower, and a cellar full of green wine without
When Vasily had reached the age of seven years
his mother sent him to learn to read and write, for
she longed to curb his fiery spirit with the rein of
reflection which learning places upon the violent ;
and Vasily, being of a determined disposition, applied
himself to learning with a will so that he succeeded
better than all the scholars who studied by his side.
But reading and writing did not curb his fiery spirit,
nor even church singing in which he also excelled,
and he could pass from the cathedral and the singing
of holy songs to noisy brawls in the city streets in
which he cracked heads as if they were nuts. He
234 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
was so strong and thoughtless that even his friends
ran down side paths to avoid meeting him, for it was
said that he had one day torn out a young man's arm
in the act of shaking hands with him, and had stricken
another to the ground by clapping him playfully upon
As Vasily grew up his vigorous pranks began to
terrify the good people of Novgorod, who came to
his widow mother to beg for protection against her
son. She was a peaceable, gentle lady, who was
greatly alarmed at the strength which her son was
developing, and she upbraided him with tears in her
* My son," she said, " why do you delight in
going about the city making cripples ? At your age
your father had no treasure to speak of, but he had
a band of brave bodyguards, and was a wise leader
among men and a judge among the people of
Novgorod the Great."
These gentle words displeased Vasily greatly, and
instead of restraining him moved him to greater
mischief. " Men shall speak of my might" he
muttered as he left his mother, " and in after years
shall boast even in Novgorod of the heroic deeds of
their own townsman, aye, even if I crack hundreds
of their own thick skulls for them. They will
remember me when they have forgotten men of
wisdom and of safe judgment." Then he proceeded
to win his reputation.
He went up to his own room in the top of his
lofty tower and sat down at the table to write on a
VASTLY THE TURBULENT 235
scroll of parchment, but it was no psalm or cathedral
hymn which the turbulent scholar wrote. It was an
invitation to a feast and ran thus :
" Whosoever wishes to eat savoury viands ready
to his hand and without cost to himself, as well as
to drink green wine of priceless value and to wear
embroidered robes of the best, let him come to the
court of Vasily at once and instantly."
He wrote out this invitation many times and
then gathering up the scrolls went to the open window.
Here he fitted each of the parchments to a stout
arrow and shot them into the city, which was about
two miles away ; and as the men of Novgorod came
from church they gathered up these strange missives
in the streets and lanes and broad paven courtyards.
Many of them wondered, and they came together in
groups gravely discussing the marvellous matter, until
a priest came along from the church and read one of
the scrolls which was attached to the arrow. Then the
word buzzed round the town, ' : Vasily the Turbulent
commandeth us to an honourable feast." And the
men of Novgorod the Great thought that now their
chance had surely come to pay off the long score
against the man who troubled the peace of their
Meanwhile Vasily was making preparation for
his guests, and he meant to use the occasion to
select for himself a brave bodyguard. The test
for admission to this very select and honourable
company was to be so severe that Vasily would be
perfectly sure of gaining protectors of the bravest.
236 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
He rolled a great cask of green wine from the vaults
and set it up in the middle of the banquet-hall,
saying to himself, Whoever shall lift in one hand
a cup of this wine and shall drain it at one breath,
and shall likewise stand upright after a blow from
my cudgel of red elm, shall make one of my brave
bodyguard." Then he went to his room in the
top of the lofty tower and lying down upon his heroic
bed of smooth planks slept the sleep of Ilya the Old
The next morning, very early, his widow mother
paced the passages of her palace and chanced to
look out upon the broad courtyard. To her sur-
prise she saw that it was crowded with a great
company of the men of Novgorod. In trembling
haste she ascended the tall tower and roused her
unruly son from his heavy sleep.
" Do you sleep, Vasily," she said, " and take
your ease and care nothing for the peril which is
even now at your gates ? See, a company of angry
men make your courtyard as black as a raven's
The young man at once sprang to his nimble
feet, grasped his great club of red elm in his white
hands, and went out into the wide courtyard.
' Ho, there, Vasily the Turbulent," shouted some
of the foremost of the guests. We have come to
your banquet and are determined to eat up all your
stores of food, to drink up your green wine, to wear
your embroidered robes, and then drag forth your
VASILY THE TURBULENT 237
The tone of the acceptance of the invitation
could scarcely be described as polite, and it roused
the hot blood of Vasily the Turbulent. He leapt
forth into the courtyard, grasped his club of red elm
with a firm grip and began to brandish it. Wherever
he swung it forward an open lane appeared among
the crowd, and when he drew it backward he made
an alley. Soon the men of Novgorod were lying in
great heaps in the courtyard, while the rest went back
to the town ; and Vasily climbed once more to his
chamber at the top of the tall tower.
After a while there came a black-browed handmaid
to the door of the chamber, and calling Vasily outside
she told him that the New Trader wished to join his
bodyguard ; and Vasily came down to the hall
where the young man stood near the great vat of green
wine. He was a comely youth with black curls upon
a white brow, and blue eyes which looked ever into the
distance, as if he sighted new lands afar off and
cared not for the trodden ways. As soon as he saw
him standing there proudly erect, Vasily advanced
swiftly upon him, grasping his great club of red elm,
and smote him a stunning, staggering blow. But the
young man was neither stunned nor did he stagger.
He stood firm under that heavy blow, the black curls
upon his forehead did not move, and the wine from
the full cup in his hand was not spilt.
" Is my strength waning ? ' cried Vasily in
despair, and then as if to test it he raised the club
again and brought it down upon a white and burning
stone which lay at his feet. The hard stone was
238 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
shivered to atoms and Vasily laughed grimly, as he
turned to the New Trader.
' Drain off the green wine at a breath," he
commanded, and the young man did so. ' Hail,
New Trader ! ' cried Vasily the Turbulent, ' you
shall be of my bodyguard from this day forward."
Then there entered the hall two young men of
the town, one of whom was known as the Lame and
the other as the Hunchback, and in spite of their
infirmities these two stood the severe tests of Vasily
and were admitted to his bodyguard.
In this strange manner did Vasily the Turbulent
choose his brave bodyguard of three men only,
three men and no more.
" Enter now my palace of white stone," said the
hero, " and there we will feast on the best that my
larders can afford ; and while we eat together I will
tell you how I shall entertain the men of Novgorod."
The four heroes sat down to the white tables
and Vasily sat in the great corner. They were waited
upon by the black-browed maiden, and when the meal
was nearly over Vasily unfolded his plan for his next
banquet. His bodyguard laughed gently as they
heard of his purpose ; and the next day they went
out into Novgorod to invite the leading men to
come and partake of the hospitality of Vasily the
Turbulent. They came in a great crowd and found
the tables prepared for a banquet, being filled with
dishes and huge cups, but there was only one waiting-
maid, the girl of the black brows, to attend upon this
VASILY THE TURBULENT 239
As soon as the guests were seated and Vasily
had taken his place in the big corner, the black-browed
maid brought steaming dishes and foaming tankards
and placed them before her master and his bodyguard,
but she placed neither food nor drink before the men
of Novgorod, who were very hungry, for the wind
was keen and the world was white. Now when the
citizens saw that they were mocked by Vasily and
his bodyguard, and even by the black - browed
servant maid, they were spitefully angry and cursed
their host and his men, but this only made the four
jokers laugh the louder ; whereupon the guests
arose and crowded out into the snow - covered
courtyard rather more hungry than when they
" We will not forget this vile insult," piped one
small citizen in a mantle of marten skins with a
collar of sables ; " why, my neighbour was full of
spleen because of my invitation to the lord's castle, and
when the story is known his pity and scorn will be
much worse to bear than his spleen. But we shall
repay Vasily in his own bad coin. Let us make such
a feast as the citizens of Novgorod have never seen
before, and we will not send Vasily an invitation"
" That is a good thought," said two stout citizens,
and they all went home with their heads so high in
the air that some of them slipped down on the way
upon some slides that certain wicked boys who
would assuredly never grow up to be councillors
had made in the roadway. In a few days the feast
was prepared and the invitations were issued, but
240 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
there was no bidding for Vasily and his contemptible
It was impossible that the preparations for the
banquet should escape the vigilance of Vasily, and
indeed the merchants agreed that it would be well
if he did hear of it. ' Otherwise," said one of them,
who had made a great fortune by buying and selling
rags and bones, " how can he be humbled, for, look
you, neighbours, if he does not know of the feast he
will not miss our invitation."
" That is so," said the others, " that is indeed so,
and true, and wise, and intelligent. Our friend must
be the next Elder of Novgorod the Great."
So the servant maid of the rag -merchant told
the servant maid of another trader, who told the
black-browed maid at the castle, only to find that
she knew all about it already, for her master had
told her two days before.
" Mother," said Vasily that morning, " I shall
go to the feast of the men of Novgorod."
" My dear child," said the old lady, " there is
always room for the guest who is bidden, but none
for the guest who is unbidden." But her gentle
counsel placed no restraint upon Vasily who, when
the time came, summoned his bodyguard and
walked straight into the banquet-hall, asking no leave
of the gatekeepers nor yet of the lackeys at the doors.
He strode forward to the wall-bench in the great
corner by the stove and sat down there to wait his
turn to be served. No man present dared withstand
him, and he glared down the table in such a ferocious
VASTLY THE TURBULENT 241
manner that many of the citizens burnt their tongues
by forgetting to blow upon their broth.
* Ah, well," said one of them, as he made a brave
attack upon a great sirloin of beef, " Vasily may be
here but he wasn't invited, while we were invited,
-in fact I invited myself."
'Ah, yes," piped the small rag - merchant, who
wore a coat of greater value than any, " we were
invited but he wasn't." And with this consolation
they went on with their feasting, Vasily being served
as nobly as the rest with meat of the richest and wine
of the greenest.
As the banquet went on the spirits of the citizens
arose, and the small rag-merchant began to think
that he might some day be bold enough to challenge
even Vasily to mortal combat. As for the turbulent
lord himself, he stood up when the merriment was
at its height and issued a mighty challenge. He
would go, he said, with his brave bodyguard on
the following day to the bridge over the Volkof
river, and would hold his own against all the men
of Novgorod. Then he stalked from the room
and across the snow -covered streets to his own
At the doorway he was met by his widow mother,
who noticed at once that he was aroused to turbulent
anger. " Did they pass you with the dishes," she
asked, ' ' or did they jeer at you ? ' Vasily was too
much moved to reply, but the bodyguard told her
all the truth. Then the widow mother put her shoes
upon her bare feet, cast her mantle of fine sables
242 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
over her cold shoulders and went her way down,
down into the deep vaults below the palace. There
she heaped up a bowl with rich red gold, another with
white silver, and a third with fine seed pearls ; and
having called the black-browed maiden, who came
from her room with hair unbound and feet all bare,
the two women crossed the white courtyard and
passed along the silent streets until they came to
the hall where the citizens were finishing their
The widow mother went forward to the great
corner with the black-browed maid close behind her,
and holding out the glittering bowls, said to the
chief citizens :
" Hail, ye men of Novgorod ! Forgive now the
fault of Vasily my turbulent son."
But the citizens were now so filled with the
courage born of rich food and green wine that they
thought themselves superior to bribes, and with
drunken scorn they refused the gifts of the peace-
loving mother, and said with a great show of spirit :
" If we shall be able to take Vasily, we will ride
his good steed, wear his embroidered garments, and
take, but not as a gift, all his rich red gold, his white
silver, and his fine seed pearls. We will pardon him
freely when we shall have cut off his turbulent
Then the widow mother went home in great
grief and sadness, scattering as she went upon the
frozen snow the rich red gold, the white silver, and
the fine seed pearls, saying to herself as she went,
VASTLY THE TURBULENT 243
" Not these things are dear to me, but the turbulent
head of my own dear son."
Now when she came once more to her own house
she gave Vasily to drink of the cup of forgetfulness,
led him down into the deepest dungeon, and locked
him securely within. Then she went out into the
stables and set his wild shaggy charger free to wander
over the wide steppe, and taking his great cudgel of
red elm, his sharp sword, and his coat of mail, she
hid them where she thought no one would ever be
able to find them.
Early the next morning Vasily's brave bodyguard
took their stand at one end of the bridge over the
Volkof river, and the men of Novgorod came against
them in a great crowd. All that day they fought
without pause for refreshment, and for a second day
and a night and yet a third day without pause for
taking breath. In the meantime Vasily slept and
took his ease, knowing nothing of the straits to which
his brave bodyguard was reduced. But as the black-
browed maiden went to the stream for fresh water,
with her buckets fastened on a maple yoke, she saw
the fight by the bridge. Then she set down the
buckets, and taking the yoke from her white shoulders
entered into the fray and cracked the skulls of many
more citizens than she could count. After that she
ran quickly home, and coming to the door of Vasily's
dungeon cried out :
" Do you sleep, Vasily, and take your ease ? Up
there upon Volkof bridge your brave bodyguard
stand as prisoners of the men of Novgorod, their
244 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
feet in blood, their heads broken with whips, and
their hands bound with their own girdles."
11 Open this pestilent door," roared Vasily, " and
I will give you as much treasure as you desire in
return for the displeasure of your mistress."
The black-browed maiden needed no bribe to
urge her to obey. With one stout blow of her maple
yoke she broke the heavy lock, whereupon she set
her white shoulder against the door, which creaked
and then gave way under her young strength. So
Vasily came out once more into the white world, and
as he could not find his warlike gear he wrenched the
iron axle from a cart which stood in the empty stable,
threw it over his shoulder and said, ' ' I thank you,
maiden, that you did not let my brave bodyguard
perish. Hereafter I will repay you, but now I must
" Haste, oh haste," said the black-browed maid,
" and give no thought to reward for me. It is
enough for me to be the handmaid of a man who
loves a fight against odds."
In a short time Vasily came to the Volkof bridge
and found all as the black-browed maid had told
him. " Ah, my brave bodyguard," he cried, " you
have breakfasted well ; now let me dine. It was not
I, my band of brothers, who betrayed you but my
own mother." With a mighty forward sweep of the
iron axle he made a lane through the crowd of
citizens and with a backward stroke he made an
alley. Then he loosed the bonds of his brave body-
guard and said to them, " Go now, my brothers,
VASILY THE TURBULENT 245
and rest, while I play with these children from
Thereupon he began to stride about upon the
bridge, brandishing his axle, and the men of Novgorod
fell in great heaps about him. At this the leaders
drew off unobserved and went with the Elder at
their head to the peace-loving widow mother, begging
her to calm her wild son before he had completely
wiped out all the citizens of Novgorod ; but she
said, " I dare not do that, you men of Novgorod,
for I did him grievous wrong by confining him in a
dungeon and sowing distrust of his valour in the
hearts of his brave bodyguard. But my son has a
godfather who is known as the Ancient Pilgrim, and
who dwells in the monastery upon the hill. He is
a man of discretion for what can a woman do alone
in such a strait ? Ask him for help against my
So the men of Novgorod with the Elder at their
head went to the Ancient Pilgrim and told him all
their trouble, at which he sorrowed greatly ; and he
made ready at once to leave the peace of his monastery
and go with them to see what he could do. Now he
was known as the Ancient Pilgrim, but he was really
a great Russian hero who was spending some time
in quiet, but who had known what it was in the earlier
days to stand up against a host. Hearing that there
was stern fighting going on, it came into his mind
that he might possibly need protection, and having
no armour or helmet at hand he climbed up very
nimbly for an Ancient Pilgrim into the belfry, loosed
246 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the great service bell and put it upon his heroic
This will serve me in good stead," he said,
* in the place where heads are being broken." Then
finding the clapper of the bell somewhat in his way,
he detached it and used it as a staff ; and as he stepped
across the great drawbridge which led from the
monastery it bent and groaned beneath his weight.
He walked straightway to Vasily and looked him
squarely in the eyes. " My godson," he said in a
coaxing voice, " curb your heroic turbulence. Spare
at least a few of these men to carry on the business of
These words added fuel to the fire within the
breast of Vasily, and he replied :
" Hail, godfather ! If I gave you no white peace
egg at Easter yet take this red one from me on St.
Then he heaved up the great axle and brought it
down with a resounding clang upon the great service
bell on the heroic head of the Ancient Pilgrim ; and
with that single blow the life of the hero of old time
was ended. His staff now served Vasily for a new
weapon, and he continued to strike down the men of
Novgorod in dozens and twenties. The Elder and
his companions kept carefully upon the outside of
the throng, and when they saw the fall of the Ancient
Pilgrim they went again to the widow mother and
asked her to make intercession for them with her
So she dressed herself in a robe of black, threw a
VASILY THE TURBULENT 247
cloak of fine sables about her shoulders, set a helmet
from her husband's armoury upon her aged head,
and went to plead with her son. She did not, how-
ever, as the Ancient Pilgrim had done, walk straight
up to Vasily and look him squarely in the eyes ;
she crept up behind him and laid her trembling hands
upon his mighty shoulders, entreating him to spare
the men of Novgorod in his wild anger. And at the
sound of her gentle voice Vasily dropped his arms, the
bell clapper fell from his hands upon the lap of
moist Mother Earth, and he said in a gentle voice :
' Lady mother, you are a cunning old woman
and a wise one too. Well you knew how to break
my power by coming at me from behind, for if you
had approached me from before I should not have
spared even you in my anger, so blinded was I with
fury against these traders of Novgorod."
The Elder and the councillors now took heart,
and having conceived a tremendous respect for
Vasily came forward and prayed that he would be
their honoured guest at a banquet, where he should sit
in the great corner and eat and drink of the best.
Vasily consented to go with them, but he felt ill at
ease at the banquet, for he was the only fighting man
there and had no conversation for traders. So he
slipped away from the feast as soon as he could, and
went home to his widow mother and his brave body-
guard ; and he sat among them by the stove until
long past midnight, talking of many things which had
happened and of things which were to come.
When our wounds are healed," said Vasily,
248 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
" I will build me a red ship with delicate sails of
white linen and launch it upon the bosom of Ilmen
Lake ; and with my brave bodyguard I will go to
pray in Jerusalem city, to worship at the holy of
holies, to visit the grave of the Risen Christ, and to
bathe in the Jordan river."
In a short time the red ship was built and sailed
proudly upon the bosom of Ilmen Lake. Vasily
walked the decks while his brave bodyguard managed
the sailing, and as the sun shone on the sails of white
linen the heart of the hero filled with pride.
" Set the sails towards the town of Novgorod,"
he cried, and in a short space of time they caught
the shore, threw out gangways to the bank, and
having left a watch behind on the ship came into the
town and thence to the palace of Vasily. The hero
sought out his widow mother and gently folded his
strong arms about her trembling form.
' Lady mother," he said in persuasive tones,
' give me your sacred blessing, for with my brave
bodyguard I will go to pray in Jerusalem city, to
worship at the holy of holies, to visit the grave of the
Risen Christ, and to bathe in the Jordan river."
Ah, my son," his mother made answer, " if you
go with a good purpose I will give you my good
blessing, but if you go to rob I will not give it. If
that is your purpose may moist Mother Earth no
longer bear you."
That is to be discovered and found out," said
Vasily, and he persuaded his mother so that she
gave him freely from the armoury great stores of
' The black-browed m;iid stood upon the bank as the red ship
sailed away from Novoorod '
VASILY THE TURBULENT 249
weapons, and from the kitchen and larder as much
bread and other food as the black-browed maid had
prepared in a month of Holy Days. Then she said
good-bye with tears, and the black-browed maid stood
upon the bank as the red ship with sails of fair white
linen sailed away from Novgorod and ran out like
a full-breasted water-bird upon the bosom of Lake
For a long time the black-browed maid stood
shading her eyes with her hand while her white
shoulders heaved. Then when the ship could no
more be seen, she turned and went back to the kitchen,
where she wrapped the widow mother in her cloak
of sables ; for though the sun shone the mother of
Vasily was cold as with the breath of winter from
the broad white world.
For two days the red ship sailed onward, and on
the second day they met a ship which they spoke in
a friendly fashion. " Whither away, Vasily ? " asked
the sailors, who hailed from Novgorod the Great.
" I am going, my mariners," said Vasily, < upon
an unwilling path. Young as I am I am blood-
guilty, and I must save my soul ; so now I go to
pray in Jerusalem city, to worship at the holy of
holies, to visit the grave of the Risen Christ, and to
bathe in the Jordan river. Tell me, good youths,
where is the straight way to the Sacred City ? '
Then they told him that the straight way would
lead him by a seven weeks* journey, but that the way
about would take a year and a half to traverse. But
if he took the straight way he would meet with a
250 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
stout barrier, for the chieftains of the Cossacks, in
number about three thousand, made their lair upon
the island of Kuminsk, robbing merchant vessels and
destroying red ships with sails of fair white linen.
" I trust in my cudgel of the red elm," said
Vasily. " Haste now, my bodyguard, and steer my
red beauty by the straight way."
So they sailed onward, turning neither to the
right hand nor to the left, until they came to a lofty
mountain which sloped down steeply to the water.
Tired of his confinement Vasily ran in to the shore
and ascended the steep hill with his brave body-
guard at his heels. Half- way up the ascent they
found a human skull and human bones lying in the
pathway. Vasily cast them aside with spurning foot,
and from the hollow skull came a human voice.
" Hey, Vasily the Turbulent, why do you spurn me ?
There was a time, O youth, when I was such as
you are, and even yet I know how to defend myself.
Upon this lofty mountain, in the days that are to
come, shall lie the skull of Vasily the Turbulent."
The young man made a gesture of disgust and
passed on, saying, " Surely a spirit unclean speaks
from this hollow skull." At the top of the mountain
he found a huge stone on which was carved the in-
scription : " He who shall comfort himself at this
stone and divert himself by leaping along it shall
break his turbulent head."
Vasily scoffed at the warning and began to divert
himself by leaping across the great stone, his brave
bodyguard following his example. But, somehow,
VASILY THE TURBULENT 251
they did not feel inclined to leap lengthwise. After
spending some time in this diversion and stretching
their cramped limbs thereby, they came down from
the mountain and embarked once more upon the
red ship. Then they hoisted the sails of fair white
linen and sped swiftly over the heaving bosom of the
Caspian Sea until they came to that great barrier
feared of merchantmen where the robber Cossacks
hid in the island of Kuminsk, robbing merchant
vessels and destroying red ships with sails of fair
At the landing stood a hundred fierce warriors,
but neither their height nor their girth nor their
weapons had any terrors for Vasily. He drew near
to the shore, his men cast out landing-stages, and he
crossed over into the midst of the Cossack guard,
flourishing his cudgel of red elm.
As soon as the brave hundred saw Vasily coming
they trembled, turned and fled to their chieftains,
who did not seem to be greatly surprised at the news
brought by the young men.
' Surely," they said quietly, ' it is Vasily the
Turbulent from Novgorod the Great who comes
upon us with the flight of the falcon."
They had no sooner spoken these words than
the young man stepped boldly among them with his
club of red elm in his hand. But instead of making
a lane with a forward stroke and an alley with a
backward, Vasily bowed courteously before the
Cossack chiefs and said, " Hail, masters ! Show me
now the straight road to the holy city of Jerusalem."
252 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
The chieftains bowed in return saying, " Hail,
Vasily of Novgorod ! We entreat you to eat bread
and drink green wine with us."
Then they poured out green wine without price,
and Vasily, grasping the cup in one hand, emptied
it at a single draught, though it contained a bucket
and a half. At this the chieftains wondered greatly
but said nothing, and when they had broken bread
together, Vasily went back to the red ship with fair
white linen sails, taking with him rich gifts from the
Cossack chieftains a bowl of red gold, another of
white silver, and a third of fine seed pearls. He
was also accompanied by a young Cossack chieftain
who had undertaken to be his guide to the holy city
Without loss of time Vasily and his brave body-
guard hoisted their sails of fair white linen and ran
out upon the Caspian Sea. After much journeying
they came to the Jordan river, where they threw out
strong anchors and landing-stages upon the steep
banks ; and Vasily with his brave bodyguard
entered in all peacefulness the holy city of Jerusalem.
They came to the cathedral church and attended mass,
where Vasily prayed for his mother, himself, and all
his family, and as he prayed the thought of Novgorod
the Great softened his turbulent heart. On the
next day a service was held for the bold travellers,
and the priests begged forgiveness for all their guilt
in the matter of violence and headstrong wilfulness.
Then Vasily prayed before the holy of holies, bathed
in the sacred river Jordan, gave gold without stint
VASTLY THE TURBULENT 253
to the priests of the city as well as to the aged people,
and embarked once more on his red ship with sails
of fair white linen.
Now before they put off again the brave body-
guard went also to bathe in the sacred Jordan river,
and as they did so an aged woman came down to
" Why do you bathe," she said, " in Jordan
river ? None must bathe therein save Vasily only,
whom you shall lose on your way home. Do you
not know that your master will be taken from your
head as you go homewards ? '
And the youths answered curtly :
" Be silent."
In a short time the sails were hoisted, and they
put out once more on the broad bosom of the Caspian
Sea, and came at last to the island of Kuminsk, where
they sought out the Cossack chieftains and bowed
down before them. But Vasily was somehow dis-
inclined to talk of his travels or of his early days of
violence and headiness. He gave to the chieftains
a parchment scroll which he had brought from
Jerusalem, in which were written many hard com-
mandments that he enjoined the Cossack chiefs to
follow. When these men invited him to a banquet
Vasily declined, and taking leave of them very quietly
for a man of such a turbulent heart, he set out once
more across the Caspian Sea for Novgorod the Great.
When they had sailed for two weeks they came to
the steep mountain, and being weary of confinement
on the ship they landed to stretch their legs. The
254 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
young man went up the steep face of the mountain
with springing step and came at last to the great
stone upon the summit across which they all leapt
in much merriment of heart. Then Vasily in his
height of spirits tried to leap lengthwise along the
stone, but fell in a heap upon it and was taken up
dead ; and his brave bodyguard buried him at the
place where the hollow skull had lain.
Then the sad youths hoisted the fair white sails
upon the masts of the red ship and came at last to
the city of Novgorod the Great. They sought out
the widow mother of Vasily who sat huddled by the
stove in the kitchen and who gave no sign of surprise
when the brave bodyguard entered, bowed before
her, and gave her a letter which Vasily had written
upon the voyage. She read the scroll without tears,
surprise, or cries of desolation, and then holding up
her head in the pride of sacred grief she said :
Thanks to you, good and noble youths. Go
now into the treasure-house and take from thence
whatever your hearts desire/'
Then the black-browed maiden came forward
and led them to the vaults, turning her white shoulders
from them as they chose whatever seemed good to
them. When they returned to the kitchen they
found the dry-eyed widow mother preparing clothes
and boots and food and wine for them that they
might clothe themselves afresh and feast well before
they went into the city to speak with the men of
After supper they sat quietly near the stove and
VASILY THE TURBULENT 255
the widow mother was the first to break the silence.
" Yet Sadko came back to Novgorod the Great,"
she said ; " Sadko came back to take his ease in his
" But Sadko was a trader," said the black-browed
maid with quiet scorn.
" Tell on," said the brave bodyguard. And the
maiden said, " It will pass the time till morning if I
tell you the tale of Merchant Sadko which has been
told in Novgorod since you went away in your red
ship with fair white linen sails." So she seated her-
self at the feet of the widow mother on the red bricks
of the floor for humility, and told her story to the
listening youths, the tale of
Merchant Sadko, the Rich Guest of Novgorod.
In Novgorod the Great dwelt Sadko the harpist,
who had no store of treasure except the golden tones
of his harp of maple- wood. He went about to the
great feasts of the nobles and made all merry with
Now for three days Sadko had not been bidden
to any merry feast, and his heart grew sad within him.
So he went down to the shore of Lake Ilmen and sat
down upon a blue stone. And there, to soothe his
spirit, he began to play upon his harp of maple-wood,
and played from early morning until far into the
night. Then a great storm arose ; the waves lashed
up the shore to the blue stone on which Sadko sat,
and great terror seized upon the heart of the minstrel
so that he returned to Novgorod in haste and disquiet.
256 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
The stormy night passed, another day dawned
fair and peaceful, but still Sadko was not bidden to a
merry feast. So he went again to the shore of the
lake, again a storm arose, and again he returned to
Novgorod in haste and disquiet.
The stormy night passed, another day dawned
fair and peaceful, but even yet Sadko was not bidden
to a merry feast. So he went again to the shore of
the lake, again a storm arose, but this time the
heart of Sadko grew stout, and he went on with his
playing though his fingers trembled sorely. Then
the Water Tsar arose from the lake and said to Sadko :
We thank you, Sadko the Musician, for your
diversion, for the sweet sounds of your harp came
down to the ears of the worshipful guests at my
banquet ; and I am at a loss, Sadko, for means of
granting reward to you.
" But go back, Sadko, to Novgorod the Great, where
to-morrow you shall be called to a merry feast, at
which many merchants of Novgorod shall be present.
Now when they have eaten well and drunk better,
they will begin to boast. One shall brag of his
good horse as if it were another Cloudfall ; another
of the great deeds of his youth as if Svyatogor were
puny beside him ; a third of the beauty of his young
wife as if she were another Golden Tress ; and a
fourth, a wise man, of the goodness of his aged father
and the tenderness of his mother.
" Then boast in your own turn, Sadko, and say :
* I know something which is known to none of this
worshipful company. I know that there are in
VASTLY THE TURBULENT 257
Lake Ilmen fishes with golden fins.' Then they
will argue with you and say that such fishes do not
exist, but you must wager your head upon the truth
of your word, in return for their pledge of all their
shops and their precious wares.
" Then you shall buy a net of the finest silk, not
for youthful vanity, but for strength, and come and
cast it into the waters of Lake Ilmen. You must
cast the net three times in the lake, and at each cast
I will place within it a fish with fins of gold. So
shall you win your wager, even the rich shops of
Novgorod, and become Sadko the Rich Guest.
But in wealth forget not your sweet playing, nor the
golden tones of your harp of maple-wood."
Then the Water Tsar vanished from Sadko 's
The harper went back to Novgorod the Great,
and it all happened as the Water Tsar had spoken
up to the time when the boasters had said their say.
Then one of them said to Sadko :
" Why do you sit there, musician, and utter
never a single word of boasting ? :
" What shall I boast of ? " asked Sadko. " I have
no treasure except the golden tones of my harp of
maple- wood. But there is one thing I know right
well ; there are in Ilmen Lake fishes with fins of
You lie, Sadko," cried the merchants. But
Sadko said :
" I will wager my head against all the wealth of
258 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
"It is done," said they, and at once they went
down to Lake Ilmen, Sadko carrying a net of fine
silk, not for youthful vanity but for strength ; and
it all fell out as the Water Tsar had promised. Then
the merchants gave Sadko the treasures they had
wagered, and he took to trading. He prospered well,
for he did not forget his sweet playing nor the
golden tones of his harp of maple-wood, and so wher-
ever he went he was welcomed among the merchants
of distant lands and won great profit thereby. In
a short time he married a beautiful young wife, and
built a palace of white stone, wherein all things were
heavenly. His young wife moved among treasures
of which even Elena the Beautiful would have been
After a while Sadko made a merry feast, to which
he invited a great company, including the brave heroes
Laka and Thoma. Now when they had eaten well
and drunk better they began to boast. One bragged
of his good horse as if it were a second Cloudfall ;
another of the great deeds of his youth as if Svyatogor
were puny beside him ; a third of the beauty of his
young wife as if she were another Golden Tress ;
and a fourth, a wise man, of the goodness of his aged
father and the tenderness of his mother.
Then Sadko, not to be outdone, boasted of his
wealth, and swore to buy up all the wares of the shops
of Novgorod, both good and bad, day after day,
until there should not be any more for sale in all that
city of busy traders. And upon his oath he named
a great wager of countless treasure.
VASILY THE TURBULENT 259
The next day he sent his servants to the markets
of Novgorod, who bought up all the wares, both good
and bad. On the second day the markets were full
again, but Sadko sent his servants, who bought up all
the wares, both good and bad. On the third day he
found the markets full of precious merchandise from
Moscow, and felt a merchant's pride in the enter-
prise of his city ; and he made a pause while he went
home, sat down in his own chamber and softly
played upon his harp of maple-wood, which seemed
to speak the golden tones of wisdom.
" If you buy all these goods from Moscow," it
seemed to whisper, " others will flow into Novgorod
the Great from far away across the sea ; and even
Sadko the Rich Guest cannot buy all the treasures of
the whole white world. Sadko is rich but Novgorod
the Great is still richer. Yield your wager and
venture forth upon the merchant path of lake and
river and broad grey sea where the Water Tsar will
be your friend."
Then Sadko yielded his wager, which was an
enormous sum of gold, and built a great fleet of
thirty- three red ships with sails of fair white linen.
The prows of these scarlet vessels were in the like-
ness of fearful dragons, whose eyes were precious
jacinths, whose brows were Siberian sables and
whose ears were the dark-brown skins of Siberian
foxes. Soon these ships were filled with the rich
wares of Novgorod, and Sadko sailed away to Lake
Ladoga and thence into the Neva and through that
river to the deep-blue sea. At the ports upon the
2 6o THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
shore he sold his wares, making great gain and rilling
many casks of forty buckets with red gold, white
silver, and fair seed pearls. Then they sailed away
with Sadko in the Falcon ship which was ever fore-
most and the finest in all that scarlet fleet.
But suddenly the blue sea turned to grey and the
ships, now almost black in the shadow, halted and
stood still. The waves rose like mountains, the sails
flapped, the ships began to rock while men whispered
of Whirlwind the Whistler and said that surely Ivan
the son of Golden Tress had not killed him.
Then Sadko, the Rich Guest, shouted from his
" Ho, there, my brave mariners ! I hear the
voice of the mighty Water Tsar, to whom we have
paid no tribute. Cast into the waters a cask of red
gold." And they did so, but still the dark-red ships
rocked, the waves beat, the sails tore, and the hearts
of the mariners longed for Novgorod the Great.
Again Sadko the Rich Guest shouted from his
" Ho there, my brave mariners ! A cask of red
gold is but a small gift for the Water Tsar. Cast
into the waves a cask of fine seed pearls." And they
did so, but still the dark-red ships rocked, the waves
beat, the sails tore, and the hearts of the mariners
longed for Novgorod the Great.
Once again Sadko the Rich Guest shouted from
his ship :
Ho, there, my brave mariners ! It is plain that
the Water Tsar asks the tribute of a living man.
VASILY THE TURBULENT 261
Make therefore slips of alder-wood and let each man
write his name upon his own lot and cast them all
into the dark-grey sea, and the lots of all who are to
see their homes once again shall float. But that
man among us whose lot sinketh shall be cast into
the sea." Then the command of Sadko was obeyed,
but Sadko J s lot was a bunch of hop flowers. And
all the lots swam like ducks, but the bunch of hop
flowers sank like a stone.
Yet again Sadko the Rich Guest shouted from
his ship : " Those lots were not just. Make other
lots of willow- wood and try again." Then the com-
mand of Sadko was obeyed, but Sadko 's lot was a
piece of blue steel from Damascus, wondrously
wrought and heavy in weight. And all the lots
swam like wild ducks, but the piece of blue steel sank
like a stone.
Then Sadko said, "It is plain that the Water
Tsar asks for Sadko himself." So he told his
servants to fetch him his massive inkstand, his swan-
quill pen, and his paper, and they did so. Whereupon
Sadko seated himself in his folding chair at his table
of oak and began to apportion his goods. He gave
much to God's churches, much for the improvement
of choir singing, much to the poor, and much to his
young wife, and the remainder of his goods he divided
among his faithful mariners.
Having done this in due order he wept and said
to those about him :
" Ho, my brave mariners ! Place an oaken plank
upon the heaving dark-grey sea upon which I shall
262 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
journey ; and fill a bowl with red gold, another with
white silver and a third with fine seed pearls and place
them upon the plank." After that Sadko took in his
right hand an iron image of a saint of God, and in his
left hand his harp of maple- wood. He wore a mantle
of rich sables over all, and he stepped upon the oaken
plank and was borne away upon the waves while the
dark-red ships sped on and flew as if they had been
ravens over the field of the slain.
Now as his strange raft floated turbulently upon
the surface of the water, Sadko at first was greatly
terrified, but after a while he fell into a gentle sleep,
and when he awoke he was in the crystal kingdom of
the Water Tsar. He looked about him and saw the
red sun burning though it gave no heat, and he saw
also before him a palace of white stone in which sat
the Water Tsar with a head like a heap of yellow hay.
" Welcome, Sadko, the Rich Guest of Novgorod,"
he said. " You have long sailed upon the waters, but
have paid no tribute to the Water Tsar. I have
sent for you that you may solve this riddle which is
a matter of dispute between me and my Tsaritza.
Which is now of greatest worth in Russia, gold or
silver or damascened steel ? !
' Gold and silver are of great worth in Russia,"
said Sadko, " but damascened steel is of great value
also. For without gold and silver a man may con-
trive to live, but without the ore of iron no man can
live at ease."
" What do you hold in your right hand and in
your left ? " asked the Water Tsar.
The Water Tsar dances
VASTLY THE TURBULENT 263
' In my right hand is a holy image," replied
Sadko, " and in my left my harp of maple- wood."
" I am told," said the Water Tsar, whose memory
must, of course, have been washed quite clean each
day by living in the sea, " that you are, in spite of
your trading, a master player upon the harp. Play
for me upon your harp of maple- wood."
Sadko at once commenced to finger his harp, and
forgetting all his trading and golden prosperity-
perhaps the water washed his memory clean also he
played such music as the sea fairies with the pink
conch shells could not surpass. Then he struck up
a merry dance-tune, and at once the Tsar rose from
his throne and began to jump about, beating time
with the skirts of his royal robe and swinging his
mantle of white fleece round him like an encircling
cloud, while above all gleamed his hair as yellow as
a bunch of hay. At the sound a troop of lovely sea
fairies, clad in transparent garments of the most
beautiful colours, joined in a choral dance, while
strange sea creatures squatted and leapt about the
oozy floor of the ocean sea.
But the merriment at the bottom of the Water
Tsar's kingdom made sad havoc at the top. For the
upper waters of the sea were churned into yeasty
foam, heaving into great billows, breaking ships
asunder, drowning many mariners, and swallowing
up rich stores of merchandise. For three hours did
Sadko play, and then the quiet-eyed Water Tsaritza
said to him in a compelling voice :
" Break thy harp of maple -wood, Sadko the
264 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Rich Guest, for though the Water Tsar makes merry
in his palace below, in the upper borders of his
realm there is trouble enough and to spare."
All at once Sadko stopped playing, broke his
harp and snapped its golden strings, and when the
Water Tsar commanded him to play for two hours
more, he told him boldly that the instrument was
" But I have sea-smiths here," said His Watery
Majesty, " who can mend a broken pearl, so that it
would be an easy thing for them to restore a harp-
' All the sea-smiths of your ocean realm," said
Sadko, " could not revive music that is lost. That
can only be done in Holy Russia, when the maker of
the music comes once more to his own home."
" Talk not of land kingdoms," said the Tsar,
whirling round Sadko in the hope of regaining the
step which he had lost, but finding it impossible to
dance without music. " Stay with me and wed some
beautiful sea-maiden. Take your choice from the
maids in the train of my queen."
Seeing that he was in the power of the Water Tsar,
Sadko promised to do so, and asked the advice of the
quiet-eyed Water Tsaritza, who gave it in her own
compelling voice, so that Sadko felt that it was a
command. ' Do not choose," she said, ' ' any sea-
maid from the first three hundred which the Tsar
will marshal before you, but let them pass by in all
their beauty. Do not choose from the second three
hundred, but let them pass in all their loveliness.
VASTLY THE TURBULENT 265
But from the third three hundred choose the Princess
who shall come last of all, and who is smaller and
blacker than all the rest. But when you have chosen
her do not kiss her, for if you do, you shall never
more dwell in Holy Russia, nor see the fair white
world and the round and ruddy sun."
Therefore Sadko allowed the first three hundred
maidens to pass him by in all their beauty ; and he
let the second three hundred pass him by in all their
loveliness ; but from the third three hundred he
chose the Princess who came last of all, and who was
smaller and blacker than all the rest. But when he
chose her he did not kiss her, for he longed once
more to dwell in Holy Russia, to see the fair white
world and the round and ruddy sun.
At the wedding feast the Water Tsar made a
great banquet, after which Sadko lay down and fell
into a heavy sleep ; and when he awoke he found
himself on the steep banks of a river near Novgorod.
He sat up, rubbing his eyes, and saw far away on the
Volkof river his fleet of bright-red ships with their
sails of fair white linen on the decks of which his
men were standing thoughtful, thinking of Sadko in
the depths of the deep-blue sea. But when they saw
their master standing upon the steep bank, they
rubbed their eyes in astonishment. Then they
hailed him, and took him on board with great re-
joicing. He carried with him a broken harp, and
lo, as he entered his palace and saw his young wife
again the harp -strings were suddenly restored to
all their strength and flexibility, and the body of
266 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
maple -wood rang as sound as the great bell of
Thenceforth Sadko sailed no more upon seas,
either blue or grey, but lived at home in Novgorod
the Great, and delighted all with the golden tones of
his harp of maple-wood.
The stove was growing cold, the black-browed
maiden rose to her feet, and stretching herself to
ease her limbs stooped tenderly to wrap the great
mantle of sables more closely about the widow mother
of Vasily the Turbulent, who murmured gently but
not complainingly, " Yet Sadko came home again."
We thank you for your tale, maiden," said the
brave bodyguard of Vasily. Then they went to
their rest ; and on the next day they sought out the
men of Novgorod, and the Sea Trader told them of
new routes for rich merchandise which their turbulent
lord had opened out for their enrichment ; and they
equipped the brave bodyguard with more scarlet
ships to go out again upon those routes and win
more glory for Novgorod the Great.
As for Vasily, they made a great image of him, and
set it up in their market, telling all men how his
valour had earned for him the praise of all his
But the black-browed maiden smiled with up-
turned scarlet lip when she saw it, and shrugged
her white shoulders as she turned away to wait upon
the mother of Vasily the Turbulent.
NIKITA THE FOOTLESS AND THE
NIKITA THE FOOTLESS AND THE
IN a certain kingdom of Holy Russia there reigned a
ruler so fierce that he was known as the Terrible
Tsar, and the way in which he won his title was this.
One day he frowned such an angry frown at his
body-servant, who had brought him diamond shoes
instead of those set with fine seed pearls, that the
man ran out of the room in great terror ; and he
told the chambermaid, who told the butler, who told
the cook, who told the soldiers of the guard, who
told the generals, who told the people that their
master was indeed the Terrible Tsar. So this
ruler became the terror of all the neighbouring
princes ; and when he heard of his reputation he
took great care not to lose it for it proved very
useful to him.
By-and-by the Terrible Tsar made up his mind to
marry, and he wrote a proclamation in golden ink on
a large piece of crimson velvet, and sent a herald into
every town and village to read the announcement,
which was to this effect that whoever should find
for him a bride who was ruddier than the sun,
270 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
fairer than the moon, and whiter than snow should
be given a reward so great that he would be forced
to spend most of his time in computing its value.
This was a prize worth trying for, and before long
the people of all the cities with their suburbs and
towns with their villages, as well as the goose-herds,
swan-herds, cow-herds, and keepers of downy ducks
on the open steppe, were wagging their heads over
the matter and counting up enormous numbers upon
Now not far from the Tsar's palace there was a
large brewery, and when the workers in this place
met together to eat their food they began to talk
of the matter which was exercising the minds of
the people throughout the kingdom. Well, my
brothers," said a certain man among them, who
was known as Nikita Koltoma, " I am quite certain
of this. No one can find such a bride as the Terrible
Tsar desires without my help ; and if I promise to
find her, found she shall be, though whether the
Tsar enjoys his good fortune when he finds her is
" You are a fool and a boaster," said the other
workmen. ' How can one of us do such a great
deed as this ? Why all the bravest heroes of Holy
Russia will attempt it, and even they have small
chance of success. Let us go back to make more
beer. Why, Nikita, you could not do it in a dream,
to say nothing of your waking hours."
" Well, brothers," said Nikita firmly and cheer-
fully, " say what it may please you to say ; but I
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 271
have faith in myself, and if any man can find the bride
I can do so."
" Hush, Nikita," said the others in warning
voices. " Have you not heard how terrible our
Tsar really is ? Why if he hears of your boasting he
will surely put you to death."
" Not so," said Nikita quite cheerfully, " he will
not put me to death. He will give me much money,
and some day, indeed, he may make me his first
The workmen looked at him in dismay and terror,
for over the wall they saw the head of one of the
Tsar's soldiers, and they could tell quite plainly
from the tilt of his headgear that the man had heard
all the boastful speeches of Nikita. Before long a
strong guard came to take the boaster away to the
Tsar's palace. " That is the last of him," said one
of the workmen as the poor fellow was marched off.
And so it was, at least as far as the brewery was
For the Terrible Tsar received Nikita with great
delight. " Are you the man," he asked, ' who
boasted that you could find me a bride ruddier than
the sun, fairer than the moon, and whiter than
snow ? '
" I am, Your Majesty," said Nikita firmly.
" That is well," said the Terrible Tsar. ' If you
can do this, I will give you such and such a reward
and make you first minister. But if, after boasting,
you cannot do it, I will cut off your head."
" I am honoured by Your Majesty's august
272 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
commands," said Nikita ; ' but I beg of you that you
will first give orders that I should be given a holiday
for a month."
The Terrible Tsar consented to this, and ordered
his steward to give Nikita a paper commanding all
keepers of inns and eating-houses to place before him
food and drink of their best without stint and without
charge. Then Nikita went out, and for three complete
weeks he enjoyed himself as he had never done before.
Meanwhile the Terrible Tsar waited patiently, and
when Nikita presented himself at the palace he
scarcely knew him he was so well favoured, so vigorous,
and so cheerful and confident of success. To him
even the Terrible Tsar seemed to have lost his
" May it please Your Majesty," said Nikita, " to
choose for me twelve brave youths exactly the same
in height, in breadth, in the colour of their hair and
the pitch of their voice ; and let your workmen
make thirteen tents of fair white linen embroidered
with gold." In a very short space of time the youths
and the tents were ready, and Nikita said to his
royal employer :
" Now Great Tsar, prepare yourself, and we will
go to find a bride ruddier than the sun, fairer than
the moon, and whiter than snow."
Without further delay they saddled their good
steeds and packed the white linen tents on horseback.
Then after saying a prayer in the cathedral they gave
the rein to their chargers. So fast they rode that
it was only a pillar of dust on the open plain and
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 273
they were gone. For three days they travelled on-
ward, and then they came to a smith's forge.
" Go ahead now," said Nikita, * and may good
go with you. I will go into this forge to smoke a
pipe with the blacksmiths." Then he went in and
found fifteen smiths making the anvils ring.
" Good-day to you, brothers," he bellowed, and
at the sound of his great voice they ceased their
hammering and returned his greeting with proper
" Make me a staff of wrought iron," he said, " of
five hundred pounds in weight."
" We are willing enough to make such a staff,"
said the master smith, " but who will turn the iron ?
Five hundred pounds is no light weight even for a
" Beat away, my merry men," said Nikita, " and
I will turn the iron." So they beat away and Nikita
turned the iron ; and when the staff was ready
Nikita took it out into the open field. There he
threw it skyward to a height of ninety feet and let it
fall into his hand. As he grasped it with his heroic
strength, it bent and broke. Then Nikita went back
to the forge,, paid the men for their work, threw the
broken pieces of rod away, and rode off with a pleased
look upon his face. Before long he caught up again
with his companions, and they rode onward for three
days longer, when once more they came to a forge
in the open field.
" Go ahead again," said Nikita, " and may
good go with you. I will go into this forge to smoke
274 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
a pipe with the blacksmiths." Then he went in
and found twenty-five smiths making the anvils ring.
' Good-day to you, brothers," he bellowed, and
at the sound of his great voice they ceased their
hammering and returned his greeting with proper
" Make me a staff of wrought iron," he said, " of
a thousand pounds in weight."
" We are willing enough," said the master smith,
" to make such a staff, but who will turn the iron ? '
" Beat away, my merry men," said Nikita, " and
I will turn the iron." So they beat away and Nikita
turned the iron ; and when the staff was ready, Nikita
took it out into the open field. There he threw it
skyward to a height of one hundred and fifty feet
and let it fall into his hand. As he grasped it with
his heroic strength, it bent and broke. Then Nikita
went back to the forge, paid the men for their work,
threw the broken pieces of the rod away, and rode off
with a pleased look upon his face. Before long he
caught up again with his companions, and they rode
onward for three days longer, whence once more they
came to a forge in the open field.
" Go ahead a third time," said Nikita, " and
may good go with you. I will go into this forge to
smoke a pipe with the blacksmiths."
Within the third forge he found fifty blacksmiths
tormenting an old man whom they had stretched out
upon a large anvil. Ten of these great fellows were
holding him by the beard with pincers and the forty
were pounding him on his body with hammers.
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 275
! Have mercy, have mercy, good brothers," the
old man was screaming. : Leave some life in me to
allow me to show how sorry I am."
' Good-day to you all," roared Nikita above the
' Good-day to you, brother," replied the black-
smiths, pausing in their work.
Why do you use this old man in such a cruel
manner ? " asked Nikita.
Because he owes each one of us a rouble,"
was the answer, " and he will not pay. Why should
he not be beaten ? '
' It is a great deal to suffer for fifty roubles,"
said Nikita. " Here is the money. Let the old
fellow go in peace."
: Very good, brother," said the blacksmiths. " We
do not care who pays the money so long as we get
it somewhere, somehow." Then they let the old
man free, and as soon as they stood aside from the
anvil he vanished from their sight.
Nikita rubbed his eyes and looked round in
blank amazement. " Why, where is the old man ? '
' Oh," replied one of the blacksmiths, : you
may look for him in vain now. He is a wizard, and
can wriggle out of anything."
Nikita laughed, and then ordered the blacksmiths
to make him a staff of iron weighing two thousand
pounds. When it was ready he went out into the
field and threw it upward to a height of three hundred
feet. The staff fell into his outstretched hand,
276 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
which never shook, and remained there firmly
" This will do," said Nikita. Thereupon he paid
the men for their work, and rode off quickly after
his companions. But as he rode onward he heard
some one behind him lustily calling out his name,
and turning in his saddle he saw the old man running
quickly after him.
" Thanks, thanks, many thanks and more thanks
again for your help," said the old man. " For thirty
years I lay upon that anvil and was tortured by those
fifty fiends. Now will you accept a present from
me in return ? Here is a wonderful cap for you.
When you put it on your head no man will be able
to see you, for it is a cap of darkness." Nikita
thanked the old man warmly, took the cap, and once
more galloped on after his companions, whom he
overtook after a short space of time. By -and -by
they came to a castle which was surrounded by a
stout iron paling through which there was no gateway.
" Well," said the Terrible Tsar, " what shall we
do now ? It is very plain, Nikita, that the people of
this castle do not intend that any one should enter."
" Why not ? " asked Nikita. " That is surely a
small difficulty with all due respect to Your Majesty.
Now, boys, tear down the paling and let us through."
So the good fellows got down from their horses and
began to tug and push at the railings with all their
heroic strength ; but they could not make them budge
" Oh, brothers," said Nikita. " I find I am a
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 277
deep-sea captain of a crew of river sailors. What I
wish to have done I must do for myself. No matter ;
after all it was I myself who promised to find for
the Terrible Tsar a bride who is ruddier than the
sun, fairer than the moon, and whiter than snow."
Nikita leapt from his horse, put his heroic hand to
the paling and a full length of it lay upon the ground.
Through the opening thus made the company rode
boldly forward. On the green lawn before the great
door of the castle they quietly set up their white
gold-embroidered tents, ate a good meal, and then,
lying down, slept soundly. But Nikita did not enter
one of the tents. He took three old mats, made a
little shelter for himself, and lay down on the cold
hard ground ; and Nikita did not sleep, but waited
watchfully for what might turn out.
Now when morning dawned, Yelena the Haughty
Beauty woke with a sigh and looked out through
the lattice-window of her room which was decked
with ruddy gold, white silver, and fine seed pearls.
There she saw upon the lawn the thirteen white tents
of the Terrible Tsar, and in front of them all a small
shelter made of old mats, from which a pair of very
sharp eyes were looking out.
Whatever can have happened ? ' said Yelena
to herself. Who are my new guests and whence
have they come ? Why the strong iron paling which
was better than a whole army of guards is broken
and thrown to the ground." Then she put her
haughty head out of the window and cried in a
voice of heroic rage :
278 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
' Ho, there, guards and protectors ! To my
rescue ! Put these intruders to a speedy and cruel
death while I watch you at your work. Throw their
carcases over the iron paling and bring their white
gold-embroidered tents to me."
Then the hero who lived in the castle as the special
protector of Yelena the Haughty Beauty, saddled his
great steed and put on his battle armour, on which
the morning sun shone brightly, and rode towards
the unbidden guests, while the Princess watched
from her lattice-window to see that her orders were
strictly carried out.
Nikita sprang from his little shelter and stood
boldly in the path of the horseman.
Who goes ? " he asked.
Who asks ? ' ' was the angry reply.
Then Nikita sprang forward, and seizing the
hero by the foot, dragged him from his horse.
Raising his iron staff he gave him one all-sufficient
blow and said, " Go now to Yelena the Haughty
Beauty ; tell her to hide her haughtiness and prepare
to marry my master the Terrible Tsar without
Meanwhile the would-be bridegroom and his
young men slept on.
The bold hero was glad enough to obey the
brave wooer, and rode up to the castle, where he
saluted his mistress with reverence and said :
These are men whose might cannot be measured,
O Princess. Their leader is plainly a man of great
weight, and told me to bid you hide your haughtiness
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 279
and prepare to marry the Terrible Tsar without
The lady looked down from the window, and as
she looked her scorn seemed to wither up the hero,
horse and all. Then she turned haughtily from the
window, attired herself in her most beautiful garments,
and went down to the great hall, where she summoned
a band of generals and leaders.
" My brave men," she cried in tones of passionate
anger, " get together a great array and sweep these
intruders out of my lawn as the serving maids sweep
the court before the great door."
Then quickly, very quickly, and with lightning
speed, the horsemen rode forth from the castle and
swept down with a sound of rushing water upon the
tents of the Terrible Tsar. But they drew rein
when Nikita stood before them waving his mighty
staff ; and quickly, very quickly, and with lightning
speed, they fell and lay dead upon the green lawn.
Meanwhile the would-be bridegroom and his
young men slept on.
" Go back," cried Nikita to the first hero, who
had kept well out of reach of that terrible staff.
' Go back to Yelena the Haughty Beauty and tell
her not to resist us further. See how I have dealt
with your men alone and all by myself ! What
will it be when the Terrible Tsar and his young men
awake from sleep ? We shall not leave one stone of
your castle upon another. You would do well to
go back and tell the bride to prepare for her
280 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
So the hero went back and told his mistress all
that had happened.
What is to be, must be," she said with outward
graciousness. " I will go to meet this heroic bride-
groom in a manner fitting to his warlike ways." So
she summoned her heroic bodyguard, and, surrounded
by these youths, who carried battle-bows in their
hands, she walked proudly from the front door of
the castle towards the tents of white linen standing
upon her own green lawn.
Nikita saw them coming, and knew without
instruction that the kiss of the bride would be sharp
and stinging. So he put on the Cap of Darkness,
bent his own bow, shot off a flaming shaft, and knocked
off the top story of the castle. Yelena the Haughty
Beauty bowed to her fate, advanced with stately step
towards the Terrible Tsar, took him by the hand,
and led him within the banquet-hall, where he and
his company were feasted on the best. When his
master had eaten well and drunk just as well, Nikita
said in his ear, " Does the bride please you, or shall
we set out to seek a better ? '
" No, Nikita," said the Terrible Tsar with a
smile of satisfaction, " let us not go on any more, for
the whole white world cannot contain better fortune
than is granted to us here."
" Well, then," said Nikita, " haste to your wed-
ding, but beware of your bride." So the wedding
was hastened, and when the feast was over the bride
came to the bridegroom and laid her hand in affec-
tion upon his shoulder. But if this were affection it
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 281
was heavy affection, for at the weight of her hand the
Terrible Tsar felt as if he were being pushed down
bodily into the lap of moist Mother Earth.
" Is my hand heavy, my lord and master ?
asked the bride sweetly.
" It is as heavy as a feather on the bosom of the
summer lake," was the polite reply. ' But, stay,
my bride. I have to give an order to my brave
troops." Then with a great effort he freed himself,
and went out into the next room where Nikita was
" Ah, Nikita," said the Terrible Tsar in great
distress, " what shall I do ? The hand of my bride
is heavier than the staff of Ilya of Murom."
Then Nikita put on his Cap of Darkness and
went back into the room with the Terrible Tsar,
and as often as Yelena laid her hand upon his master
in affection, he stepped in the way and bore the weight
of it. So they went on all the time that the Terrible
Tsar stayed in the castle for the wedding festivity,
which lasted for a week. But before the week was
over Yelena the Haughty Beauty knew that her
people were laughing at her because she had married
a man whose strength was as nothing but who relied
always upon Nikita ; and she planned in her heart
a terrible revenge.
" We have feasted enough," said the Terrible
Tsar at the end of the festival week. " It is time for
us to go homeward and we shall go by water."
So a glorious ship was prepared, and the bridal
party went on board. The sails were set, and the
282 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
ship put out from the harbour with a fair wind and
a bright sun. The Terrible Tsar was very happy
in his good fortune, but the haughty bride made
merry to his face and plotted behind his back.
As for Nikita he fell into a heroic sleep and slept
for twelve whole days and nights.
When Yelena saw him sleeping she summoned
her trusty bodyguard and ordered them to cut off
his legs to the knee, put him all maimed into a boat,
and cast it out upon the open sea. They did so ; and
on the thirteenth day Nikita awoke from his heroic
sleep to find himself lying footless in an open boat
far out upon the sea with no ship in sight any-
Meanwhile the bridal ship sailed on its way with
a fair wind and a bright sun, and at last it entered
the harbour of the royal city of the Terrible Tsar.
Then the cannon gave the sign, and the people ran
down to the wharves, where the nobles and the chief
merchants, with the Elder at their head, offered bread
and salt to their royal master, and greeted him with
compliments on his marriage with a bride so beautiful
and so stately. And the Terrible Tsar was so busy
for a long time in feasting and smiling, giving
presents and receiving them, that he forgot all about
But when the feast was over the haughty bride
took the rule of the kingdom upon herself, and forced
the Terrible Tsar to go out into the fields to herd the
pigs ! Then she gave orders that all the relatives of
Nikita should be brought before her at the royal
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 283
palace. Her soldiers found only one, Timothy, the
brother of Nikita, and by order of the Terrible
Tsaritza his eyes were put out and he was driven
from the town into the green fields.
The blind man went on with his hands spread
out before him, onward and ever onward until he
came to the seashore and found the water beneath
his feet. Then he halted and stood still, fearing to
go forward. But as he stood there with his sightless
eyes turned towards the heaving waters of the deep
blue sea a boat was quickly borne towards the
beach and a cheery voice called out : ' Ho, good
fellow ! Help me to land in your fine country."
" I would gladly do so, friend," was the sad
reply, " but, truth to tell, I am without sight and see
" But who are you and whence do you come ? :
" I am Timothy, the brother of Nikita," said the
blind man, " whose eyes have been darkened by
Yelena the Haughty Beauty."
" My own and very true brother," said Nikita
cheerily. " Turn, Timothy, to the right hand where
you will find a tall oak growing. Pull out the oak,
bring it here, and stretch it from the shore across the
water. Then I will mount upon it and so come to
you in safety."
Timothy did as his brother directed and made a
bridge of the tall oak so that Nikita could creep on
shore, where he took Timothy in his arms and kissed
284 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
" Ah, brother," he said, " how is it now with the
Terrible Tsar ? '
' He found his bride," said Timothy, " and she
is indeed ruddier than the sun, fairer than the moon,
and whiter than snow, but her heart is as black as
night. The Terrible Tsar is now in great mis-
fortune for he is herding his own pigs in the field !
Each morning he has for breakfast a pound of sour
bread, a jug of frozen water, and three stripes upon
his back ! "
" Alas," said Nikita. " We now have indeed a
Then the two brothers began to discuss their
present condition and their future plans, and of
course Nikita was full of ideas. " Brother of mine,"
he said brightly, " you cannot see my condition so I
must tell you that I am footless. Now as you are
blind it seems to me that there is only one sound
man between us. My plan is that you should carry
me upon your back while I will tell you where to go."
' It is well," said the blind man, kneeling down
at once so that his brother could get upon his back.
Then he walked onward with his new burden,
onward and ever onward, turning to the right hand
or to the left as his brother directed him. After a
long time they came to a dense forest in which stood
the pine- wood cabin of the wicked Baba-Yaga.
Nikita directed his brother towards this hut, and
the two in one entered the home of the wicked Baba-
Yaga, but found no one inside. ' Feel in the oven,
brother," said Nikita, " perhaps there is some food
'Timothy began to dance, thr cabin also began to dance, the table
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 285
there." Sure enough they found hot savoury food
in the oven and they sat down to the table and had
a good meal, for the sea air had made them both
very hungry. When they were fully satisfied Nikita
asked his brother to carry him round the cabin in
order that he might examine everything that was to
be found in it. On the window-sill he found a small
whistle, and, putting this to his lips, began to blow.
The shrill sound had a marvellous effect, for, whether
he would or would not, Timothy began to dance,
the cabin also began to dance, the table danced, the
chairs danced, and even the stove took to its nimble
" Stop, Nikita," cried Timothy at last, for he
was utterly exhausted, " I can no longer dance with
such a burden upon my back." So Nikita stopped
whistling, and as the last note died away everything
settled down in quiet once again. Then when all was
still the door was suddenly opened and the wicked
Baba-Yaga entered her cottage.
When she saw the two in one she screamed out
with a loud voice :
" You beggars and thieves ! Up to this time
not even a bird or a beast had come to my lonely
dwelling, and now you have come to devour my
food and loosen the very props of my little cottage.
But very soon, and indeed sooner than that, I will
settle with you."
" Hold the wicked old witch, Timothy," cried
Nikita, and the blind man caught her in his arms
and squeezed her very hard. Then Nikita seized
286 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
her by the hair, and she was ready enough to make all
kinds of promises to win her freedom.
" We want nothing," said Nikita, who had still
more ideas in his head, " but your whistle and healing
and living water. I have the whistle already, and
if you will give us the water, you shall go free once
more into the white world."
That I can, and will since I must," said the
That you shall and are obliged to," replied
Then the old witch led them to two springs and
" Here for your benefit is healing and living
water." Nikita took of the healing water and
sprinkled his stumps, whereupon his feet grew out
as they had been before, but they would not move.
So he sprinkled them next with living water, and
they were made sound and whole as they had been
Guided by his brother, the blind man stooped to
the spring of healing water and bathed the hollow
sockets of his eyes. Then eyeballs came into them
as they had been before, but they could not see.
So he sprinkled them next with living water and
they were made sound and useful as they had been
The brothers thanked the wicked Baba-Yaga and
gave her a gift in exchange for her help and her
whistle of which Nikita had need, but she grunted
and said, " I could, and I would, and I did because
NIKITA AND THE TERRIBLE TSAR 287
I must." Then she went off to her cottage and the
restored men took their way to the city of the Terrible
Tsar for Nikita had another bright idea. In a field
outside the palace they found the Terrible Tsar
herding pigs, whereupon Nikita began to blow on
the whistle and the pigs began to dance, for their
ancestors had come from the herd of the wicked
Baba-Yaga. Yelena the Haughty Beauty saw what
was happening from the window, but she did not
laugh, for she was not a woman of that kind. She
only rose in all her haughty beauty and gave a stern
command to her servants to take a bunch of rods
and beat the pig-herd and the two strangers who
were standing near him. At once the guards ran
out and brought them to the castle to give them the
punishment they deserved for their lack of gravity.
This was just what Nikita desired, for he ran forward
and seizing Yelena by her lily-white hands in a grasp
no man or woman could ever resist, he cried :
" Now, Terrible Tsar, what shall I do with the
Terrible Tsaritza ? '
' Send her home," said the poor worried monarch,
" out of my sight." So they sent her away to her
own castle, where she spent all her time in admir-
ing her beauty in the mirror until she died of dulness.
But Nikita was made chief minister, and Timothy a
general, and the Terrible Tsar did whatever they
wished him to do from that day forward.
PEERLESS BEAUTY THE CAKE-BAKER
PEERLESS BEAUTY THE CAKE-BAKER
IN a far-off land lived a Tsar and a Tsaritza who had
one son, whom they named Ivan. They were very
glad when he was born, and placed him in a beautiful
oaken cradle among pillows of the softest down,
covering him with a little eider-down quilt of silk
from Samarcand. The pillow on which rested his
little head was ornamented with drawn-thread work
and all was cosy and comfortable, but try as they
would the nurse - maidens and they were pretty
ladies of the highest degree could not rock Ivan
Tsarevich to sleep. Softly they sang and sweetly
they crooned, but the young prince roared lustily,
tossed off the coverlet, kicked out the pillow, and
beat the sides of the cradle with his little fists.
At last the nurse-maidens lost all patience and
they cried out to the Tsar, " Little Father, Little
Father, come and rock your own son." So the Tsar
sat down by the side of the cradle, placed his great
toe upon the rocker, and said :
' Sleep, little son, sleep, sleep, sleep. Soon
you will be a man, and then I will get you Peerless
Beauty as a bride. She is the daughter of three
291 T 2
292 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers,
and the sister of nine brothers."
He made this promise once only, and it had such
a soothing effect upon the restless Tsarevich that he
went to sleep and continued sleeping for three days
and three nights, during which time the nurse-
maidens sat and praised his beauty among them-
selves. But they ceased talking as soon as he woke
up again, for now he cried more loudly than ever,
tossed off the coverlet, kicked out the pillow, and
beat the sides of the cradle with his little fists.
Once again the nurse-maidens tried to console
him and to rock him to sleep, for they loved and
admired him best in his slumbers ; but he refused
to sleep, and they were forced to call out, " Little
Father, Little Father, come and rock your own
The Tsar came once more to the cradle of his
son and made the wonderful promise, whereupon
the child fell asleep again and slept for three days
and three nights.
But when he woke up he was as naughty as
before, and for a third time the nurse-maidens had
to call in the help of the Little Father.
When the Tsarevich awoke the third time he stood
upon his cradle and said, " Bless me, Little Father,
for I am going to my wedding."
' My dear son," said the Tsar in great wonder-
ment, ' you are altogether only nine days old.
How can you marry ? '
" That shall be as it is," said the Tsarevich,
Bless me, Little Father, for I am going to my wedding "
PEERLESS BEAUTY 293
' and if you will not give me your blessing I fear
I must marry without it."
" Well, well," said the Tsar, ' may all good go
with you." Then he was not in the least surprised
to see his son step down from the cradle a full-grown
youth of goodly shape, call for clothes suitable to his
age they were all ready to hand and then go forth
to the stable. On the way across the courtyard he
met an old man who looked at him and said :
" Young man, where are you going ? '
" Mind your own business," said the young
prince. But when he had gone forward a little
he stopped and said to himself, That was a
mistake. Old people know many useful things."
So he turned again and went after the old man.
" Stop, stop, grandfather," he said, ' what was
the question which you put to me ? '
" I asked you," said the ancient, ' where you
were going, and now I add to my question. Are you
going there of your own free will or against your
will ? "
" I am going of my own free will," said the
Tsarevich, " and twice as much against my will.
I was in my cradle when my father came to me and
promised to get me Peerless Beauty as a bride. She
is the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter
of three grandmothers, and the sister of nine brothers.
So I suppose I must go to seek her."
" You are a courteous youth," said the old man,
" and deserve to take advantage of the knowledge of
the aged. You cannot go on foot to seek out Peerless
294 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
Beauty, for she lives at the edge of the white world
at the place where the sun peeps up. It is called
the Golden Kingdom of the East."
" What shall I do ? " asked the Tsarevich, thrust-
ing his hands into his belt and standing with feet
wide apart. E I have no horse of mettle or whip of
silk for such a ride."
" Why, your father has thirty horses of the
best," said the old man, " and the trouble with you
will be to make a wise choice. Go to the stables
and tell the grooms to take the thirty to bathe in
the deep blue sea. When they come to the shore
you will see one of them push forward into the water
up to its neck and drink. When this happens watch
with care to see if the waves rise high and break in
foam upon the beach. If so, take that horse, for it
will bear you safely to the edge of the white world
and to the place where the sun peeps up, which is
called the Golden Kingdom of the East."
" Thanks and thanks again, good grandfather,"
said the Tsarevich, who went on to the stables and
selected his heroic steed in the manner described by
the old man. On the following morning the Tsare-
vich was preparing this horse for the journey when
it turned its head and spoke to him in the speech
of Holy Russia :
" Ivan Tsarevich," it said, (< fall down upon the
lap of moist Mother Earth and I will push you three
times." The youth was so much astonished to hear the
horse speak that he found it no difficult matter to fall
down. Then the horse pushed him once and pushed
PEERLESS BEAUTY 295
him a second time, but after that it looked at the
youth for a little time and said, " That will suffice,
for if I push you a third time moist Mother Earth will
not be able to bear you." So the Tsarevich rose to
his feet, saddled his horse, and set out. His father
and those about him saw him as he mounted, but
they did not see him as he rode. It was only a
smoke wreath on the open boundless plain and he
was gone. Far, far away he rode until the day grew
short and the long night came on. As the darkness
fell the rider came to a house as large as a town,
with rooms each as big as a village. At the great
door he got down from his horse and tied the bridle
to a copper ring in the door-post. Then he went
into the first room and said to an old woman whom
he found there :
" May God be good to this house. I should be
glad to be permitted to spend the night here."
Where are you journeying ? 3 asked the old
" That is not the first question," said the Tsare-
vich. " Give me food to eat and wine to drink, then
put me next into a warm sleeping chamber. In
the morning ask me whether I have slept in peace
and then ask where I may be journeying." And
the old woman did so, just as the Tsarevich had
Next morning she asked him the second question
and he replied, " I was in my cradle when my father
came to me and promised to get me Peerless Beauty
as a bride. She is the daughter of three mothers,
296 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the granddaughter of three grandmothers, and the
sister of nine brothers."
' Good youth," said the old woman, " I am nearly
seventy years of age, but of Peerless Beauty I have
never heard. But farther on the way lives my elder
sister. Perhaps she knows." Then Ivan Tsarevich
went out of the great house, and, after taking courteous
leave of the old woman, rode far away across the
open steppe. All day he rode, and as night was
coming on he came to a second house as large as a
town, with each room as large as a village. He dis-
mounted from his horse, tied the bridle to a silver
ring in the door-post, and asked an old woman whom
he met in the first room if he might have a night's
lodging. And here it happened as it had happened
before, only the old woman was eighty years of age.
: Farther on the road," she said, ' : lives my elder
sister and she has givers of answers. The first givers
of answers are the fishes and other dwellers in the
heaving restless sea ; the second givers of answers
are the wild beasts of the dark forests ; and the third
givers of answers are the birds of the open air.
Whatever is in the whole white world is obedient to
the will of my elder sister."
Once again Ivan Tsarevich set out and came to a
house where he tied his horse to a golden ring, and
was received by an old, old woman who screamed
at him in a voice like a flock of peacocks :
" O you man of boldness, why have you tied
your horse to a golden ring when an iron ring would
be too good for you ? '
PEERLESS BEAUTY 297
Patience, good grandmother," said the Tsare-
vich gently, " it is easy to loose the bridle and tie the
horse to another ring."
c Ah, my good youth," said the old woman gently,
and as one would speak to a child, " did I frighten
you ? Sit down now on the bench and take food
and drink." Ivan did so, and then without being
asked he told the old woman where he was going
and what was his quest.
' Go to your rest," she said shortly. " In the
morning I will call my givers of answers."
Next morning the old woman and the young
man sat in the porch, and the former gave a heroic
whistle, whereupon the blue sea heaved in a great
heap, and the fishes, large and small, sea-serpents
and sea-dragons, rose upon the surface and made for
' Come no farther," said the old woman, raising
her right hand. " Tell me where this good youth
can find Peerless Beauty." Then the answer came
from a million mouths, " We have not seen or heard
The old woman blew her whistle and the forests
echoed to the sound of a million voices of wild
beasts, but the answer to her question was, We
have not seen or heard of her."
' Come hither," said the grandmother, " all ye
birds of the air." And in a moment the light of the
sun was hidden and the sound of flapping wings was
like a tempest. But the answer of the birds to the
question was, " We have not seen or heard of her."
298 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
" My givers of answers fail me," said the ancient
woman as she took Ivan by the lily-white hand and
led him into the house. Then there flew through the
open window the Mogol Bird which fell to the
ground at her feet.
" Ah, Mogol Bird," said the old woman, " whither
hast thou come ? '
" I come from the home of Peerless Beauty,"
was the tired reply, " and I have been dressing her
for Mass in the Cathedral."
The old woman clapped her hands in delight.
" That is the news I seek," she said. " Now, Mogol
Bird, do me a favour. Carry this young man, Ivan
Tsarevich, to the home of Peerless the Beauty."
" That I will," was the reply, " but we shall
need a great deal of food."
" How much ? " asked the old woman.
" Three hundredweight of beef," was the answer,
" and a keg full of water."
Ivan filled a large keg with water and placed it
upon the back of the Mogol Bird with the heaped-up
piles of beef round about it. Then he ran to the
forge and told the smith to make him a long iron
lance, and with this weapon in his hand he sat on
the edge of the keg with the beef all round about
him. Up rose the Mogol Bird and once it was
under way it flew so steadily that the top of the water
in the keg remained always level, but now and again
the bird would slowly turn its head and look at Ivan,
when he would at once give it a large piece of beef
upon the point of his long iron lance.
PEERLESS BEAUTY 299
Onward, and ever onward, flew the Mogol Bird,
feeding on the beef and drinking the water from
Ivan's cap, which he extended at the point of his
lance, until all the meat and water were finished,
whereupon the Tsarevich threw the keg overboard.
" O Mogol Bird," he said, " haste to finish your
journey, for there is no more beef and there is no
" I cannot go down to earth in this spot," said
the bird, " for beneath us there is nothing but a
bog like glue. And I must have more meat. If you
cannot get beef, veal will do." So Ivan cut off the
calves of his own legs, and when the bird had re-
freshed itself it flew on till it came to a green meadow
with tall silken grass and blue flowers. Here it flew
down to earth, and Ivan alighted, but, of course,
walked very lame.
" What makes you halt, Ivan Tsarevich ? " asked
the Mogol Bird, and when the young man told what
he had done the bird blew upon the back of his legs
and restored him to his former condition.
On went the young man, eager to finish his
quest, until he came to a great town, where he entered
a narrow street and found an old woman in a poor,
mean house, who seemed to be expecting him.
" Go to bed and sleep soundly after your flight,
Ivan," she said, " and when the bell rings I will
The young man lay down and slept soundly, so
soundly that when the bell rang for early morning
prayers not all the calling nor all the shaking, nor all
300 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
the shouting nor all the beating could rouse him.
Then the bell rang again for Mass, and the old grand-
mother tried once more, calling, shaking, shouting,
beating, but all with no result, until she took a tiny
feather and tickled the sleeper's nose. Then he
awoke with a start, washed himself very clean,
dressed himself very carefully, and went to Mass in
the cathedral. He bowed first to the high altar,
then to North, South, East, and West, and especially
to Peerless Beauty, who knelt alone in the church.
So Ivan Tsarevich knelt beside her and then stood
beside her while she prayed. When the service was
over the young man looked at Peerless Beauty, and
looked again and yet again without speaking, and
while he looked six brave heroes came up from the
sea-shore and stood at the great door of the cathedral.
Peerless Beauty went to meet them with Ivan Tsare-
vich close behind her.
" What country clown is this ? " cried the brave
heroes, but Ivan stepped before Peerless Beauty
and swung his right arm in a circle three times round ;
and when he stopped the heroes were lying at the
feet of the Princess in a heap of confusion.
Then Ivan Tsarevich went back to the old grand-
mother, who put him to bed. On the second day it
all fell out as on the first occasion. Peerless Beauty
looked at Ivan as he knelt in silence by her side, and
as she looked she blushed. On the third day it all
fell out as on the first in every particular except that
when Ivan entered the church Peerless Beauty gave
him a silent salutation and then came and stood at
PEERLESS BEAUTY 301
his left hand ; and when the young man had laid
low six more scornful heroes Peerless Beauty took
him by the hand, and together, without a word, they
went up to the priest and took the golden crowns.
After that they went home and feasted, and then
prepared to set out for the home of Ivan Tsarevich.
Over the open boundless plain they rode, speaking
little, but looking much and smiling frequently, until
Peerless Beauty grew weary and lay down to rest,
while Ivan Tsarevich guarded her slumber. When
she awoke refreshed the bridegroom said :
' Now guard my slumbers, Peerless Beauty, for
I am very weary."
Will your sleep be short or long ? " asked the
' I shall sleep," said Ivan, " for no longer and
no shorter than nine days and nine nights. If you
try to arouse me I shall not wake, but when the end
of the time comes I shall wake without any arousing."
' I shall be weary of waiting and watching, Ivan
Tsarevich," said Peerless Beauty with a sigh.
Weary or not, it cannot be set aside or gainsaid
or altered," said Ivan Tsarevich. Then he lay down
and slept for nine days and nine nights. And while
he slept there came a rushing whirlwind across the
open steppe, and in the heart of the whirlwind,
where was the point of peace, rested Koschei Who
Never Dies, who bore away Peerless Beauty to his
kingdom beyond the sea. And Ivan Tsarevich
awoke without any arousing to find himself alone.
Sadly he gazed across the empty boundless plain,
3 02 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
and when he arose, went back to the town, sought out
the old woman in the poor, mean house, who seemed
to be expecting him, and told her all his tale of
' I had all things," he said, ' and now I have
' Go to bed and sleep soundly after your sorrow,
Ivan," she said, and he went to bed, but could sleep
neither soundly nor restlessly. But at midnight
there came a rushing whirlwind across the open
steppe, and in the heart of the whirlwind, where was
the point of peace, rested Koschei Who Never Dies,
who bore away Ivan Tsarevich to his kingdom
beyond the sea.
At the gate of the palace Ivan knocked tock,
tock and the wicket-gate in the large gate was opened
by Peerless Beauty, who peeped out with eyes like
violets wet with the rain, and cheeks like roses in
the morning sun, and a brow like a seed pearl of
priceless lustre. She opened the little wicket -gate
wide, and Ivan stepped in. Then they went to an
upper room, where the bridegroom said to the bride :
When Koschei comes home, ask him where his
Then Koschei came in at one door and Ivan went
out at another door.
" Phu ! phu ! " said Koschei Who Never Dies,
' I smell the blood of a Russian. Was it Ivan
Tsarevich who was with you just now, at this moment,
and recently ? '
Why, Koschei Who Never Dies," said Peerless
PEERLESS BEAUTY 303
Beauty clasping her hands, Ivan Tsarevich has
long ago been devoured by wild beasts of the plain,
at least it must have been so and not otherwise."
So they sat down to supper, and when Koschei had
eaten well and drunk better Peerless Beauty said to
him, " Tell me, now, Koschei, where is your death ? '
" It is tied up in the broom, silly one," said
Koschei ; " why do you wish to know ? :
Next morning Koschei Who Never Dies went out
at the head of his men to fight, and as soon as he had
gone Ivan Tsarevich came to Peerless Beauty and
kissed her sugar lips. Then she took the broom
from the corner near the stove and gilded it all over
with pure beaten gold. When this was done and
it took a long time to cover each twig of the birch
boughs with the gold Ivan left his bride and Koschei
Who Never Dies came in by another door.
" Phu ! phu ! " he said, " I smell the blood of a
Russian. Was it Ivan Tsarevich who was with you
just now, at this moment, and recently ? '
" Why, Koschei Who Never Dies," said Peerless
Beauty clasping her hands, " you have been flying
through Russia and have caught up the odour of the
country on your own garments. Where should I
see Ivan Tsarevich ? ' Then they sat down to
supper, and Koschei saw the gilded broom lying
across the threshold. " What does this mean ? ' ' he
" See how I honour you," said Peerless Beauty,
" for I gild even Death for you."
" Little simpleton, I fooled you," said Koschei.
3 o 4 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
' My death is not in the broom, but is concealed in
the oak fence."
Next day it fell out as before. Peerless Beauty,
helped by Ivan Tsarevich, gilded the fence, and
when Koschei saw it burning like fire in the evening
sun, he laughed and said to Peerless Beauty :
" Little simpleton, I fooled you. My death is in
an egg, the egg is in a downy duck, and the duck is
in the stump of a tree which floats upon the open sea."
Next day Peerless Beauty rose very early, before
the sun was up, and went to the stove in the kitchen.
" I must send Ivan Tsarevich/' she said, " on the
long search for that downy duck. He has a long way
to go, so I must bake him a love cake. So she baked
him not one love cake but three, and as she kneaded
the dough, she spoke a love-spell into it so that Ivan
Tsarevich should fare well on his journey. The cakes
were browned and buttered and wrapped in a napkin
of fine white linen, with edges of drawn thread- work,
when Ivan came into the kitchen just as the sun rose.
Then he put his arms about the cake-baker, and she
whispered into his ear where to look for the death of
Koschei. And Ivan kissed her honey mouth and
went out with the cakes in his pouch.
Onward he went and ever onward, until he came
to the margin of the ocean sea, and then he knew
not how to go farther. He had eaten all the cakes
and was very hungry, so very hungry that when a
hawk flew up above his head, he cried : ' Hawk,
hawk, I will shoot you dead and eat you without
PEERLESS BEAUTY 305
Why eat me ? ! ' asked the hawk in the speech of
Holy Russia, ' I can be of good service to you."
Then a great bear came shambling along with its
fore-paws turned inwards to show that it was a bear
of good breeding. " Bear, bear," said Ivan, " I will
shoot you dead and eat you without cooking."
Why eat me ? ' asked the bear in the speech
of Holy Russia, " I can be of good service to you."
Then Ivan saw a great pike leap from the ocean
sea and lie floundering upon the shingle shore.
c Pike, pike," said he, " I will kill you and eat you
' Better, far better, and much the best," said the
pike, " if you cast me into the sea."
' It seems to me," said Ivan Tsarevich, " that
the cakes of Peerless Beauty have wrought a spell,
and that I am to have nothing further to eat. Well,
then, in the strength of those cakes I will go on with
it." So he flung the floundering pike back into the
ocean sea, and when it splashed the great water boiled
up and began to race along and up the shore so
quickly that Ivan was forced to run before it with
all his might and main.
Onward he ran and ever onward, with the water
racing at his heels and occasionally washing them. 1
Onward he ran and ever upward, until he came to a
tall tree upon a high bank of sand. Upward he
climbed and ever upward, and then saw that now
the waters of the ocean sea were quickly falling ; and
1 No doubt this was the first person who ever showed " a clean pair of
3 o6 THE RUSSIAN STORY BOOK
when they had gone back within their own boundaries
Ivan saw that they had left high up on the shore a
huge stump of a tree.
The bear ran up, raised the stump in its arms, and
hugged it until it cracked snap, smash and from
the inside of it flew out a downy duck, which soared
high and ever higher, until it looked like a dark green
bottle with a long neck. Then the hawk flew up
and caught it, whereupon an egg fell into the sea,
which was caught by the pike, which swam to the
beach and laid it gently at Ivan's feet.
The young man placed the egg in the warm napkin
within his pouch and ran forward, ever forward,
until he came to Peerless Beauty, who was stooping
over the stove in the kitchen. Ivan put his arms
about the cake-baker, who grasped his hands and
pressed them ; and when she stood upright the egg
was in her left palm.
Ivan turned and saw Koschei sitting on the win-
dow ledge and scowling at him, because he expected
that the cakes and baked meats that Peerless Beauty
was cooking were all for him. But as the two rushed
to the grip, Peerless Beauty dropped the egg upon
the stove. It broke, and as the shell cracked,
Koschei 's heart broke also, and he fell down dead.
Then the bride and bridegroom went to the eating
room, and Ivan Tsarevich feasted on cakes and baked
meats which Peerless Beauty had prepared when
he was on his journey to the ocean sea ; and after
that they went to the country of Ivan's father, who
rubbed his eyes when he saw them and said, " Why,
PEERLESS BEAUTY 307
Ivan Tsarevich left home when he was only nine
days old, and now he brings Peerless Beauty to me as
my daughter. Well, I never ! '
" Well, we never ! " cried the nurse-maidens in a
chorus, as they ran to get ready for the second wedding,
which was to be celebrated with great splendour.
' Really, we never did ! Whoever would have
thought it ? "
There is very little doubt that Ivan Tsarevich was
the first " nine days' wonder " that ever was.
Printed by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinhurgh.